That nasty postexercise stench is a reality of working out. While performance gear’s technical fibers do a great job of wicking moisture away from your body and controlling temperature close to your skin, they are bound to soak up plenty of sweat, thereby emitting a foul odor long after you cool down. Some brands tout special antimicrobial properties, but, in most cases, a single workout will leave your duds stinky and in need of washing.
As you might guess, there are some general rules to follow when washing these high-tech fibers if you hope to preserve them over time. If you’ve ever washed your workout clothes only to find that they still stink after the fact, you’ve probably already come to this conclusion. Not only can washing them the wrong way mean they don’t get clean, but it can also degrade the fibers and shorten the lifespan of some very expensive exercise ensembles.
Here are the do’s and don’ts of washing your workout gear:
1. Don’t use fabric softener.
Fabric softener can often be blamed for keeping workout clothes from getting totally clean when they are in the wash cycle. Since it tends to coat these types of fibers, fabric softener prevents them from being able to absorb the water when being washed.
2. Don’t use too much detergent.
In the same way that fabric softener can keep water in the wash cycle from penetrating fabrics, so can detergent. Use slightly less than you would for your regular clothes, and this should limit the viscosity enough to do the job.
3. Do use sport-specific detergent.
There are a number of special detergents on the market formulated for washing workout clothes. If you find your duds are particularly stinky, this is a good thing to try.
4. Don’t let your gear sit around.
Mold and mildew can begin to grow on workout gear that is left in a gym bag or laundry basket. Be sure to get those items in the washing machine sooner rather than later to prevent the buildup of nasty stenches.
5. Do soak stinky items.
By soaking the worst-smelling garments in one part white vinegar to four parts water, you can often kill anything that’s particularly pesky when it comes to odors. Throw them in a bucket or sink for a half hour prior to washing.
6. Do use cold water.
Since technical fibers are generally on the delicate side, in most cases it’s best to use cold water to wash them. This will help maintain any special performance properties for many workouts to come.
7. Don’t cook your clothes.
Setting the dryer to tumble-dry low is usually your best bet with workout gear. Even better: Consider line-drying outside. These approaches prevent you from drying out spandex, Lycra and other similar fibers.
8. Don’t submerge your kicks.
Unless you’re ready to turn your workout footwear into lawn-mowing shoes, don’t put them in the washing machine. You can degrade the midsole cushioning and render them less protective when it comes to pavement pounding and other active endeavors.
9. Do read the label.
Performance fabrics often require special care beyond these do’s and don’ts. Always check the label to ensure you’re maintaining the integrity of the performance fibers and any special attributes, like UPF, anti-odor or compression.