Since gym clothes are made of special fabrics that reduce sweating like polyester, spandex, and Lycra, they require different cleaning regimens than regular clothes.
Even if you’re not using gym clothes made of high-performance materials, and instead you like wearing your favorite white T-shirt and a simple pair of sweatpants, you still need to pay special attention to their cleaning.
All that sweat your body produces during a workout can make gym clothes quite stinky. If you don’t take care of them the right way, this stench will never go away. Which means you won’t be able to wear them ever again.
More importantly, not washing your gym clothes regularly can increase the chances for infection caused by bacteria residing in the garments.
To help you keep your favorite workout clothes clean and fresh, we’ve compiled a list of 13 simple cleaning hacks. From the ideal washing temperature to soaking in vinegar, here’s everything you should know about washing your sports garment.
13 Hacks to Keep Your Gym Clothes Clean
#1 Dry Before Washing
Burying your gym clothes in the hamper will only allow them to soak up more sweat and get even smellier. Make sure to hang them up to dry before you hit the shower. This will make it easier to remove odors during washing.
#2 Turn the Clothes Inside Out
Maybe you already know that turning the clothes inside out before washing is a great way to protect colors. It is also good for giving your gym clothes a deep clean treatment.
Considering that the microfibers on the inside of your activewear are the place where all bacteria build up, turning them inside out will allow thorough removal of any dirt and sweat.
#3 Pre-Soaking in Vinegar
Vinegar is an ideal home remedy for disinfecting and deodorizing workout garments. If your clothes are extra smelly, all you need to do is soak them in a mixture made with ½ cup of white vinegar and cold water for about 30 minutes before washing. This will not only help with bad odors, but it will also remove sweat stains by freeing trapped bacteria.
This home remedy usually works after just one wash, but if you’re not satisfied with the results, repeat as many times as you want.
#4 The Ideal Water Temperature
Even though hot water is very powerful when it comes to removing dirt & odors, you should avoid it when washing your sports clothes.
Activewear is generally made of synthetic materials which are best washed in cold or lukewarm water. Hot water can cause damage to the microfibers and have a negative effect on elasticity. This can result in shrinkage and a shortened lifespan of your gym clothes. However, you can use hot water to wash anything made of cotton – tees, towels, socks, etc.
Note: Make sure to check your clothing tag and see if there are any specific washing instructions needed.
When it comes to washing sports clothes, more is not better. The microfibers in activewear are resistant to water (and sweat, of course), so too much detergent will only stick to them. The optimal amount of detergent should be 2 teaspoons per full load.
It also helps if you use detergents specially designed for sportswear washing. Detergents like Nathan Power Wash and Rockin Green Platinum contain natural components that fight odor and have an ability to deep clean synthetic fabrics. They also kill the bacteria that accumulates in your gym clothes, thus removing the source of the bad smell.
#6 Odor Eliminator
To eliminate persistent odors, wash your gym clothes as described above, then add a cup of white vinegar to the final rinse.
If this doesn’t work, consider investing in a quality odor eliminator. Anti-odor products like Febreze, Borax, and Zero Odor will not only get rid of the unpleasant smell but will also keep your clothes fresh for a longer time.
#7 Avoid Fabric Softeners
Even though fabric softeners may seem like the best idea when it comes to odor removal, they can actually do more damage than good.
While they can be very effective for other types of garments, they tend to break down the microfibers in gym clothes, thus reducing their elasticity. In addition, softeners create a coating that traps bacteria, sweat, and odor.
So, stay away from fabric softeners and turn to specially designed replacements, like the one by Hex Performance.
#8 Machine Drying vs. Air Drying
Hot air has a similar effect on your sportswear as hot water – it can make them shrink and shorten their life span. Air drying is always the best solution for your gym clothes, but if you must use the machine, make sure to set it on low heat.
Note: Be careful not to leave colored clothes outside for too long because the sunlight can cause the color to fade.
#9 Home Remedies
Besides soaking your activewear in vinegar, you can also try the following home remedies to remove persistent odors and dirt:
White vinegar and tea tree essential oil
Baking soda is also very efficient in absorbing odor while the tea tree oil has strong antibacterial properties.
Combine ½ cup of white vinegar, 2-3 drops of tea tree essential oil, a tablespoon of baking soda, and ½ cup of water.
Once you prepare the mixture, pour it into a spray bottle. Turn the clothes inside out and spray on the smelly areas. Leave for about 15-20 minutes, then wash.
Baking soda paste
Combine 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda and 1-2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Mix well to form a paste.
Turn the clothes inside out and apply the paste to the smelly parts with a spoon. Leave for about half an hour, then wash.
Combine one cup of water and one cup of vodka into a spray bottle. Shake well and spray on the clothes. Hang them up until the vodka evaporates and removes the odor.
Note: You can use rubbing alcohol instead of vodka.
Liquid dish soap is a mild yet powerful odor eliminator due to its antibacterial properties.
Combine a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and 3-4 cups of warm water. Soak the gym clothes and leave for about an hour. Wash and air-dry.
This oxidizing agent is very efficient in killing bacteria that cause a bad smell. Because it acts as a very strong bleaching agent, hydrogen peroxide can easily damage your clothes. That’s why you should use the 3% solution.
Combine two cups of water and two cups of hydrogen peroxide in a small tub. Soak the clothes for about half an hour, then wash.
Crush an aspirin (uncoated) and rub on the smelly areas of the clothes before washing.
#10 Keep Your Gym Bag Fresh
How many times have you forgotten your sweaty clothes in the gym bag? This isn’t good, because your gym bag is damp and dark, which makes it a perfect environment for the bacteria to thrive. Luckily, there is a simple solution in the form of a home-made deodorizing sachet.
Combine 3-4 tablespoons of dry rice, 1/2 cup of baking soda, and ten drops of essential oil of choice (as mentioned before, tea tree is great because of its antibacterial properties). Pack it and carry it in your bag whenever you hit the gym.
#11 Freeze Your Activewear
Some people swear that this method is super-efficient in getting rid of bad odor. Make sure your clothes are completely dried out before you put them in the freezer. Leave for a couple of hours, then remove, let thaw, and was the usual way.
#12 Wash After Every Use
Make sure to wash your sportswear after each use in order to prevent infection, stain damage, and bad smell. Always wash your stinky gym clothes separately to avoid the odor being transferred to the other clothes.
#13 Check the Washing Machine
If your sports clothes still smell bad after laundering, check the washing machine for mold or fungus on the inside drum.
When Is the Time to Toss Your Gym Clothes?
While gym clothes don’t have a set lifespan, you can use the following guidelines to determine whether it’s time to throw them away:
- tops - every year
- leggings - every 6-12 months
- sports bras - every 4-6 months
- socks - every 3-4 months
- shoes every 6 months
If the bad odor on the clothes is persistent and can’t be washed away, it might be a good time to invest in some new gym clothes.