What To Do When Your Gym Clothes…Well…Stink

Ever wondered how to wash your workout clothes? We’ve got some answers…

We’ve all been there, whether we’d like to admit it or not… you’re on the treadmill (or elliptical, or on your sixth dead lift, or just hit mile five) when you suddenly realize that smell you keep smelling is…you. Sweat is a fact of life, especially when it comes to working out, but there are times when, despite our best efforts, it’s not just our hard-working bodies but our gym clothes that stink, too. I’ve always been religious in my workout clothes washing — one and done — which means my hamper is often filled to the brim by week’s end. While I used to just run my gym clothes through the wash like everything else, a couple years ago I began to notice that my technical clothes just didn’t seem like they were getting that clean, even after heavy laundering. I looked into it, and turns out, these clothes that are made to take such a beating at the gym are actually quite delicate, requiring their own set of washing rules.

First and foremost, let’s talk about why your workout clothes seem to hold on to smells, even after laundering. Technical fabrics like Spandex and Lycra are made to wick water and sweat away from your body, keeping you — and them — dry and comfortable. This is all well and good, until laundry day rolls around and your Lycra running tights are submerged in the washer and still repelling water. What’s more, your constant sweating and washing and sweating some more can actually make it more difficult to thoroughly clean the fabric, since sweat and detergent molecules can actually cling to the material and make the fibers difficult to soap up.

So, just how do you get your active wear squeaky clean and super fresh? First and foremost, before tossing your gym clothes into the hamper, be sure to hang them to dry thoroughly. This prevents the growth of truly nasty mold and mildew, which can not only contribute to a funky smell that sticks around long after laundering, but can actually make your clothes wear out faster by breaking down the fabric. Instead of balling everything up and shooting for the hamper, be sure to hang your clothes to dry overnight. When laundry day rolls around, separate your workout clothes into lights and darks and wash them separately from the rest of your clothes, the friction from which can cause stretching and unnecessary wear and tear. But before you toss them in the washer, consider the following tips to make your Movement pieces as clean as can be…

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Baking Soda: Baking soda is kind of magic, both in and out of the kitchen. Just like a box of Arm & Hammer can deodorize your fridge, it can also be used to freshen your laundry. A natural deodorizer and cleanser, try it as a pre-soak for your gym clothes  by mixing 1 cup of baking soda into a bucket filled with warm water. Add your gym clothes and allow to soak overnight. In the morning, launder as usual. The baking soda will not only deodorize your clothes, and whiten white, but boost the efficiency of your detergent, too. You can also add 1 cup of baking soda to the wash cycle to deodorize and clean.

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Distilled White Vinegar: White vinegar is my personal favorite way to freshen any and all laundry. Not only does it whiten and brighten your clothes when added to the final rinse cycle of your washer, but the acetic acid also kills odors and softens fabrics without coating them the way fabric softener does. Use it as a pre-soak by adding a cup of distilled white vinegar to a bucket of warm water and allowing clothes to soak overnight, or add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to the final rinse cycle of your machine. You may smell a slight hint of vinegar when you remove your clothes from the washer, but this will completely dissipate once your clothes are dry.

Note: Do not use apple cider vinegar. ACV contains tannins, which can stain clothes.

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Borax: Never heard of Borax? It’s time to get acquainted. This all natural mineral (sodium tetraborate) can be used in a variety of ways, but works especially well in the laundry. Follow directions on the box and combine with your regular detergent to improve your detergent’s performance, remove stains and deodorize.

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Dryer Balls & Lavender Oil: So, you’ve washed your clothes, they smell great…what’s next? Sunlight is an amazing all-natural deodorizer but, if you don’t have access to a clothesline, toss your wet laundry in the dryer with a few homemade dryer balls infused with a few drops of lavender essential oil. The dryer balls will soften your clothes and cut drying time, while the essential oil lends its sweet smell to your laundry.

Note: you can use other essential oils, just be sure they’re distilled in clear liquid; otherwise, the oil could stain.

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Thank you so much for these tips, they are wonderful!

I know what you are talking about… Every time I come back from the gym my training clothes are toxic and I immediately put them for washing. I will try your recipe. I am making all kinds of homemade cleaners, so this will not be difficult for me. Thanks for sharing!