How to clean your workout clothes and extend the life of your favorite gear

A Fit Mess
January 30, 2017

When I’m not in the office (I work in a typical corporate environment), I basically live in active wear. Not only does this keep me comfortable, but it keeps me committed to working out if I’m already dressed for the occasion. Plus, chasing after two toddlers is infinitely easier when I’m in leggings. That’s a fact.


Take a peek in my closet or dresser and you’ll see that half my wardrobe is actually workout capris and sports bras. Fitness gear is an investment and I have learned that taking a few extra measures to care for these items will pay off in the long run. Properly washing and drying workout clothes ensures they will continue to smell fresh and will be able to withstand all the sweat and activity you put them through.

A Fit Mess

Here are my tips for keeping your workout clothes looking (and smelling!) their best:

1.  Wash your workout clothing immediately.

We all want to just toss our sweaty clothes in the hamper and be done with them, right? Allowing your wet clothes to sit in a laundry basket for days is a big mistake. Not only does this allow bacteria and germs to grow (and spread!), but it locks in smells and sweat.


As soon as you possibly can, toss the items directly into the washer. If you change at the gym, throw your clothes in a plastic bag (to keep the bacteria contained) or hang them up to air dry. Then be sure to wash your clothing at the first chance you get. For clothing that really needs to be deodorized, you may want to let them sit in a mixture of vinegar (around 1/2 cup) and cold water for 15 or 20 minutes prior to washing. This has worked really well for me.


2.  Turn your clothing inside out.

I know…it feels wrong, but trust me on this. Turning your clothes (and socks) inside out before washing exposes the material that needs to be cleaned the most. First priority should be given to the area(s) that have direct contact with your skin. Otherwise, the sweat and odors will stay trapped in your clothing.


3. Add baking soda to your wash.

Remember when I posted about washing your gym bag with baking soda? Well, baking soda also works wonders for cleaning and deodorizing your favorite active wear. It removes any funky odors from sweat and softens clothing. Just add a 1/2 cup of baking soda directly to your wash (you can add it at the same time as your detergent) and let it do the trick. Which brings me to #4…


4. Use less detergent.

Yes, less. Detergent can easily build up on clothing over time and can ruin the fabric. Soap can also get trapped in clothing, keeping bacteria and odors from being properly removed. Be sure to read the back of your detergent for the recommended amount to use. You may need less soap than you think, especially if you are using baking soda in your wash.

Be sure to avoid using a detergent with tons of fragrances and added dyes. We use Tide Free and it cleans our items really well. There are also sport specific detergents out there if you are interested in trying one of those. I always recommend washing items in COLD water.


5. Don’t use fabric softeners or dryer sheets. 

This is the quickest way to ruin your workout clothes. Fabric softeners break down certain performance materials (such as Lycra), clogs fibers, and lock in smells. Not only does this mean your clothing won’t smell clean, but it won’t be able to properly do it’s job of wicking sweat. Take my word – skip both of these items.


6. Hang dry almost all of your items. 

Do not dry your workout clothes in high heat! Read that sentence again for me. Take it from someone who has made this mistake more than once: hang dry everything you want to keep. Why? High heat shrinks stretchy materials and damages the fabric. I usually lay mine flat on top of the washer or I’ll drape them over the towel rack. If you really need to dry your items, use the lowest possible heat setting and watch them closely.


There you are my friends. I would love to know what you think and if you have any additional tips to share!


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