The Best Way to Wash Your Smelly Workout Clothes

workout clothes

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For most of us, the entire purpose of going to a gym for a workout or completing an exercise routine is to break into a sweat. But once the workout is over, no one wants the sweaty smell to remain in the clothes.

One of the newest developments in activewear is the inclusion of Microban Scentry Revive technology that neutralizes and dissipates odor without the need for washing after every wearing saving you time and natural resources.

High-performance activewear provides muscle support and helps wick moisture away from the body, but it can be quite expensive. Taking care of it correctly can make your investment last. These are not your plain old cotton t-shirts and sweatpants that can be thrown in a hot water wash. With just a few tips, you can keep gym clothes smelling fresh and looking good.

Tip 1: Soak Before You Wash

The bacteria that gets trapped in your body soil is the culprit behind the odor in workout clothes. Body soil is oily and salty and stinky bacteria love it. 

The key to breaking the bond between the body soil and the fabric is white distilled vinegar. This inexpensive product has a very low level of acid that cuts through the body oil and releases the bacteria to be flushed away in the wash. 

Mix one part white distilled vinegar to four parts cold water. Submerge your workout clothes and let them soak for 15 to 30 minutes before washing. If wash day is several days away, place the clothes in the vinegar/water solution for a 30-minute soak. Rinse with plain water and allow to drip dry before tossing the clothes in the hamper.

If you happen to have stains from fish oil or vitamin capsules left in a pocket, treat them before you wash the clothes.

Tip 2: Wash Workout Clothes ASAP

Wash gym clothes after every wearing. Allowing sweat-soaked clothes to dry and then wearing them again only builds up layer after layer of body soil and bacteria. If you can't wash them the same day, allow the clothes to air dry before you toss them in a hamper to prevent the growth of mildew that only adds to the problem.

Don't forget to wash or clean your gym bag at least once a month as well. Gym bags can harbor bacteria and fungus that can cause skin irritations and athlete's foot.

Tip 3: Go Easy on the Detergent

Fight the instinct that if a little detergent is good, a lot of detergent is better. It doesn't work that way with high-performance workout fabrics. Most activewear is made of microfibers containing Lycra and Spandex that repel water. That's great when exercising because it keeps you dry. But when washing, they repel water and hold onto petroleum-based detergents that can trap the encapsulated soil.

So, pay no attention to the recommended detergent levels on the product label. Use no more than two teaspoons of liquid laundry detergent per full load. While you can use the same laundry detergent you regularly use for your family, there are detergents specifically formulated for activewear.

If you see a waxy build-up of deodorant or yellowing on the underarms, dip an old soft toothbrush in the detergent and scrub the area to loosen the soil before you wash the clothes.

Close any zippers and turn the clothes inside out before you toss them in the washer to prevent snags. Do not overload the washer and don't wash with cotton towels that produce lint balls that cling to synthetic fabrics.

Tip 4: Use the Right Water Temperature

High-performance fabrics should always be washed in cold or warm water, never hot water. If handled correctly, these water temperatures will do the job.

White cotton socks, towels, and cotton t-shirts should be washed separately in hot water for best results.

Tip 5: Fabric Softener Is the Enemy

Never add liquid fabric softener to a load of workout clothes. Fabric softeners coat fibers to create a silky touch. That coating of fibers locks in any remaining soil and the bacteria and odor that remain and removing the fabric softener coating take many, many washings.

Fabric softener also breaks down the elastic fibers that give workout clothes their stretch. You'll end up with smelly, baggy clothes. 

To be sure your clothes are soft to the touch, add one-half cup distilled white vinegar to the final rinse cycle to strip away any detergent residue that might cling and leave clothes feeling stiff. The vinegar can be added to your washer's automatic fabric softener dispenser.

Tip 6: Skip the Dryer

Allow workout clothes that are made of high-performance fabrics to air dry. If you must use an automatic dryer, choose the lowest heat or air-only cycle. High temperatures can damage fabrics, even melt them, and cause shrinkage.

Final Tips for Work Out Gear

If you are in a hurry and don't have time to change clothes before leaving the gym, a quick spritz with a fabric freshener like Febreze will help get you through until you can wash the clothes properly. Don't forget your shoes, gym bag, and exercise mats. All of these need regular cleaning as well. These articles should help: