How To Care for Your Workout Clothes

workout clothes care

There’s nothing worse than throwing clothes in the laundry only to take them out smelling just as bad as before. Workout clothes, especially those with synthetic fabrics, require different washing techniques than your standard laundry. This is because workout gear is more likely to be smelly and stained compared to day-to-day apparel.

What causes these odors? When we exercise, our body releases oils and sweat to maintain body temperature. Odor happens when our sweat comes into contact with the bacteria that naturally lives on our skin. When we wear synthetic workout clothes like polyester, the fibers of that clothing absorb our body’s oils. This creates a bacteria-happy environment that’s tricky to clean, even after a wash. Fortunately, there are quick and easy methods for cleaning activewear. While it’s always a good idea to check the directions on your clothing’s labels for the best washing instructions, here are some additional tips for cleaning activewear and eliminating odors and stains.


workout clothing care

Tips for Looking After Your Athletic Clothes

You’ll want to wash activewear made of synthetic fabric as soon as possible.

Most synthetic fabrics absorb our body’s oils and become a breeding ground for bacteria. The longer these clothes wait for a wash, the more time there is for odor-causing bacteria to thrive. Synthetic fabrics are great at allowing moisture from sweat to evaporate, but they’re also oil-absorbing. The bacteria on our skin then comes into contact with the oil and creates body odor, which is why it's a good idea to wash synthetics as soon as possible.

Pro Tip: If you can’t wash your workout gear right after exercising, air drying is the way to go. Fresh air and sunlight can be effective natural cleaners which use UV rays from the sun to kill bacteria.

workout fabric

Workout clothes should be washed inside-out and separately from other clothing.

This is because the bacteria build-up from sweat starts on the inside layer of our workout gear. Turning our clothes inside-out allows for more exposure to detergent and cleaner clothes. Activewear should always be washed separately from other household items. This allows it to keep its shape and avoid being stretched out.

Pro-tip: Don’t wash activewear with heavy items like towels. They can weigh down the clothes and stretch them out, causing permanent damage.

Wash activewear with a sports detergent.

These are created with specialized formulas that break down and remove sweat oils embedded in fabric. Sport detergent is heavy-duty detergent that addresses the root of the smell rather than simply covering it up.

Pro-tip: Avoid using bleach, fabric softeners and extra detergent. Bleach can damage synthetics and extra detergent causes a soap build-up that can trap odors in clothing. Fabric softeners leave a coating on clothes that clogs the moisture wicking properties of a fabric, which can also trap odor-causing bacteria.

Wash activewear in cold water on the delicate cycle.

Heat can damage the fibers of synthetic clothing by causing them to melt and shrink. The delicate cycle with cold water (60-80°F) allows your activewear to maintain its shape and last much longer.

hangdry clothes

Hang your clothes to dry.

Dryers are known for shrinking synthetic clothing. This happens because the fibers are sensitive to high heat which causes them to break down. Dryers can also hinder moisture-wicking (sweat evaporating) technologies of workout clothing, which then traps odors in fabric.

How To Get the Smell Out of Workout Clothes

You’ve done everything right and washed your dirty workout clothes but find that there’s still a smell? Luckily, there are tricks to removing odors from your workout gear.

  • Baking Soda: Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and a great option for persistent smells. Through its natural chemical processes, baking soda is able to neutralize acids that cause odor.

    Directions: You can simply add a cup of it directly to your wash along with detergent.

  • Pre-soak with vinegar: Another effective odor removal technique is pre-soaking your laundry with distilled white vinegar. Vinegar has antibacterial properties that allow it to combat odor on clothing. It also softens and brightens fabrics, leaving you feeling fresh.

    Directions: Soak your clothes in cold water with 1 cup of vinegar for 15-30 minutes. Then, toss them straight into the washer on the delicate cycle.


How To Remove Sweat Stains From Activewear

Finding sweat stains on your clothes after you’ve pulled them from the wash is no fun. There are quick and easy solutions for this as well.

  • Baking Soda Paste: Baking soda pulls stains from fabric and absorbs it. Applying a baking soda paste to stains and then washing the clothes again is an effective method for stain and odor removal.

    Directions: Take a cup of baking soda and water it down slowly to make a thick paste. Apply the paste to the sweat stains. Then, take a brush – you can even use a toothbrush – and brush the paste into the fabric. Wash the clothes again on the delicate cycle.

  • Distilled Vinegar: White distilled vinegar is excellent for removing stains because it cleans them without adding any coloration.

    Directions: Mix 1 part vinegar and 1 part cold water and apply it to the stain. Gently blot the stain until it’s removed. Make sure to be gentle when removing stains because scrubbing can damage the fibers of your fabric by stretching or tearing them.

Pro-tip: Avoid machine drying clothing with stains because the heat can permanently set the stains. Air drying is always the best strategy when dealing with workout clothing.

Having a simple washing routine can keep your activewear free of odors and stains. Remember to always use cold water on the delicate cycle, followed with an easy air dry for the best results. Whether you’ve broken a sweat on a run or in jiu-jitsu, a little care can return your activewear to its pre-workout condition.



Related Guides

How To Choose a Sports Bra

How To Choose Workout Shorts

Compression Clothes Benefits

How To Choose Workout Clothes

How To Choose Compression Rashguards

How To Choose Compression Clothes

How To Choose Compression Shorts

Moisture Wicking Clothing Benefits