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How to wash workout clothes to make sure they last

If you’re a regular on the workout scene, you’ve likely dealt with your fair share of stinky, smelly workout clothes. Even if you wash them immediately after a workout (which you always should), over time, it seems that the faint smell of your last run or HIIT workout lingers far longer than it should. What’s more, you invest a lot of money in workout clothes — and they’re not cheap. You want to make sure you take care of your workout clothes so they hold up to your workouts, last as long as possible, and stay stink-free.

There are a few must-dos when it comes to caring for your workout gear. It does take a few extra steps than, say, washing your bathroom towels in bulk, but the results mean you’re not constantly investing in new clothes, and you know they’ll stand up to the most grueling workouts.

hand washing clothes

Best detergent for workout clothes

Regular laundry detergents aren’t made for workout clothing. In fact, they actually allow bacteria into fabrics like Lycra and Spandex, so it ends up building up on clothing, which makes them smell and break down over time.

There are a few products on the market specifically formulated for workout clothes. Win Sports Detergent is specially formulated for sweaty workout clothes and removes odor-causing oils that cling to your athletic apparel.

Nathan Power Sport Wash Detergent is another solid choice for removing smells and restoring performance to technical fabrics. According to the description, its “pH Neutral prevents fabric damage and color fading” and it “removes stubborn stains,” which is ideal for blood and dirt.

When using detergent for workout gear, less is more. You don’t need to add a lot for it to do the trick, and, since these aren’t cheap, it will last longer.

sweaty gym clothes

Here’s a trick for stink

We recommend using vinegar or baking soda to help get rid of the stink. Vinegar is one of those miracle ingredients that cleans and gets rid of smells, so you won’t be ditching your favorite running tank top before it’s logged more miles just because it stinks. Before you wash your gym clothes, soak them in the sink with 1 cup of white vinegar or 1 cup of baking powder and cold water. If you are pressed for time, just throw it in with your detergent.

Also, don’t throw them into a ball in a gym bag when you’re done with your workout. This can lead smells to embed further into your clothing, making it difficult to ever get them smelling fresh. Instead, lay them out in your laundry room if you can’t get to them right away or in the back seat if you’re on your way back from the gym.

It’s not just about the detergent

There are other things to keep in mind when you’re washing or caring for your athleticwear. First, the temperature of the water matters if you want to prevent your workout clothes from shrinking, stretching, or fading.

Second, after you wash your sports bra, allow it to air dry on a folding rack rather than throwing it in the dryer. This will allow it to keep its structure and form so it’s as ready for your next workout as you are.

Third, wash your workout clothes in smaller loads and for shorter periods of time. This helps reduce the chances your clothes will get ripped or torn. Plus, you shouldn’t really be washing them with your regular clothing anyway, so small loads should be fairly easy to accommodate.

woman stretching during run
Nichanan Wongapa/Shutterstock

Don’t forget about your shoes

Your shoes are likely one of the biggest investments you’ve made in adopting a healthier lifestyle. Even “cheap” shoes can run over $50 and they are worth investing a little time and energy into. Keeping them clean and bacteria-free is important, but putting them in the washing machine can break them down unnecessarily. The laces can also get caught up and cause damage, and they get banged around and wear down quicker than if you skip washing them in a washing machine.

Instead, try wearing them into the shower when you wash every few weeks. It sounds strange, but your shoes will get clean from the body wash or soap you’re using, and it will rinse any debris and stink away. Just make sure you take them off at some point and wash your feet. You don’t want those stinking up a room!

Help them help you

Workout clothing is made of the most technical fabrics on the market today — and this is always advancing. These same materials that keep you dry and fresh during workout sessions are, unfortunately, also the ones that will break down fastest if you don’t take the necessary precautions when you wash and care for them.

It’s hard to find time to get through all your laundry, so we know it can feel like a pain to take all these steps for your workout clothes. But if you wear them a lot, the payoff will be more than worth it. You’ll have bright brights that smell fresh no matter how much you sweat, and you won’t pour money down the drain every few months replacing your favorite items. This not only helps you feel better while you exercise, but it will feel better on your wallet as well.

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