Best Way to Wash Leggings and Yoga Pants

Dark yoga pants folded on a yoga mat on a wooden floor

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Do you want to look amazing in your yoga pants and leggings? One way is to practice yoga or hit the gym. Another way to look as good as possible is to wash those yoga pants, leggings, and activewear the correct way.

Little is more unattractive than yoga pants that are faded, saggy, snagged or covered with balls of fuzz. The exception, of course, is yoga pants that shrank in the wash and were then stretched back over lower extremities that have never met a yoga mat.

With the price of some yoga pants, you need them to last. So how can you have Zen yoga pants and leggings? Follow these tips:

Skip the Heat

Synthetic materials such as olefin, spandex, and others used for yoga pants and or restorative leggings like those from Lunya containing Celliant fibers should always be washed in cold water. You should always skip the dryer, even on the low heat setting. Allow the pants to air-dry away from direct heat (radiators) and sunlight.

Clothes dryer set to cold temperature setting for drying yoga clothes

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Go It Alone

Yoga pants and leggings made from synthetic fibers don't like to associate with other laundry items except for other yoga pants and the occasional synthetic work-out top. Towels, jeans, and cotton T-shirts are a particular no-no. The cotton fibers will produce lint that is attracted to the synthetic fibers and that lint will form little balls or pills all over the surface. It's best, even when washing with similar fabrics, to turn the pants inside out to reduce friction on the outer finish. (Fuzz balls on the inside aren't nearly as unattractive to others.)

Clothes hamper filled with yoga pants turned inside out for cleaning

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Be Gentle

It's perfectly fine to wash yoga pants (remember, inside out) in the washer. But, choose the gentle cycle and a lower final spin setting. No need to expose the fabric to excessive abrasion or stretching from high-speed wringing.

Be Stingy With Detergent

Less is more when it comes to detergent and synthetic materials. Too many suds will leave your yoga pants feeling stiff, sticky, and trap bacteria and odor. That leftover detergent can also cause skin irritation in some very sensitive places. No one needs that.

It is important to select a high-quality detergent that contains the enzymes needed to remove body oils and stains. Most detergents offer a list of ingredients on the label or their website. Look for these enzymes that will tackle most any stain: protease removes protein stains; amylase removes carbohydrate stains; lipase lifts out oily stains, and mannanase and pectinase remove combination food stains. Be on the lookout for the enzyme cellulase as an ingredient because it will help reduce pilling just in case your do toss in a cotton tee or two.

Top-rated detergents that contain these needed enzymes are Persil and Tide.

Banish Fabric Softener

Fabric softeners make fabrics feel silkier by coating fibers with chemicals. A silky feel may be good but the chemicals left behind will reduce the wicking properties of the fabric. Wicking means that the fabric will pull away moisture from your skin and let it evaporate rather than leaving it trapped between your skin and the pants. If you do yoga in the yoga pants and perspire; you'll feel very uncomfortable.

An Extra Tip

If you have yoga pants that need to be hemmed, wash them first to allow for shrinkage before you have them altered.

How Often Should You Wash Yoga Pants?

Yoga (except for hot yoga) is a bit different from many gym routines. You perspire, but you're not always dripping with sweat. Do the pants need to be washed after every wearing? What if you don't do any yoga at all, just run errands and have a latte?

The best answer is: Any garment that is worn close to the body directly on your skin should be washed after every wearing. Tight-fitting garments gather bacteria and yeast spores from your skin. This bacteria remains on the clothes and can multiply and prosper until the garment is washed. If you happen to have sensitive skin or a small cut or break in the skin, rashes, skin irritation, and infections can begin. (Don't forget this same thing can happen with your yoga mat.)

Some of the bacteria that cling to fiber cause odor. The odor may not be detectable immediately after wearing. But as the bacteria remains on the fabric and grows, the next time you wear the garment and your body heats up the fibers, the odor is released. This is not good. The odor will also remain if you haven't gotten the pants clean during your laundry routine. That's why you need a good heavy-duty detergent with enzymes.

Even if you don't plan to wear the yoga pants again soon, don't leave them in a gym bag or even wadded up in the hamper because this gives bacteria and germs more of a chance to grow. Shake them out, be sure they're not damp, and wash as soon as possible.