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I was wearing my newly-washed workout clothes when I was standing in line in an outdoor booth to grab myself a cup of coffee just before I go for a run. It was a little humid, so naturally, I’d sweat a little. To my surprise, my fresh shirt started to smell awful.
In the laundry world, this is called the “rebloom effect”, where a fresh set of clothes starts to smell shortly after wearing it and this happens quite a lot, especially in workout clothes.
I’ve been working out almost every day for almost 13 years now so I have a fair share of stinky clothes. Even to the point where I had to get rid of them for good.
Needless to say, I have tried many methods and products for deodorizing workout clothes but what I’m about to share with you is simple and affordable.
Presoak your workout clothes in a mixture of 1 cup vinegar and 1 gallon of cold water 30 minutes before laundry. Use only ¾ sports detergent and skip the use of fabric softeners. Then, air dry your workout clothes instead of putting them in the dryer.
Ahead, we will discuss how to prevent your workout clothes from smelling, how to wash them along some other ways to eliminate the odor. But first, why do workout clothes stink anyway?
Why do your workout clothes stink anyway?
The awful smell of your workout clothes is caused by the build-up of odor-causing bacteria. It thrives on damp/moist areas like your wet workout clothes at the bottom of the hamper or the ones you forget to take out your gym bag.
Most workout clothes are made with moisture-wicking materials. This is good for keeping out the sweat from your body. However, it also means it’s harder for water and the detergent to penetrate because of the same properties that make it special.
That’s why when you forget to take out your moisture-wicking workout clothes from your gym bag and the bacteria had a chance to take over, a regular wash usually can’t remove the odor. Hence, the stinking smell on your newly washed clothes.
There are a number of ways to eliminate the odor, but the best way is always to prevent it from happening in the first place.
How to prevent your clothes from smelling
You bought your clothes fresh, so keep it that way by doing these practices.
Take a bath before working out
If you work out in the afternoon, your body might be full of oils and dirt. Not to mention, bacteria might already have accumulated in dark areas (like the armpits). To prevent them from transferring into your clothes, take a good shower before you work out.
Deodorants eliminate odor-causing bacteria on your skin and act as an antiperspirant that reduces the sweat that comes out on your body. Apply a generous amount just before working out. It’ll also prevent bacterial build-up for 24-48 hours.
Avoid buying shirts that are too tight
I’ve noticed that when my shirt’s too tight (specifically in the underarm) it smells faster. That may be because tight shirts block the air in your armpit and it’s in constant direct contact with your skin.
But whatever the reason is, just avoid wearing shirts that are too tight. Give your body a little room to breathe.
Rinse your clothes after use
This is a trick not taught by many but has been a lifesaver for me when I have to stuff my workout clothes in my gym bag and travel for an hour from my gym to my house every day.
After a hard workout, I go into the shower with my already wet clothes on. I rinse my sweat off and replace them with fresh water. I give them a tight squeeze at the end before I put them inside my bag.
If a pale is available, soak your clothes in it while you take your shower. Give it a little rub just before you take it and squeeze the water out.
That way, the oils of your body, sweat, and dead skin get rinsed off.
Air dry them every after use
Once I get home from the gym, I immediately take my clothes out and spread them out outdoors so they can air dry.
It helps evaporate the sweat which avoids your clothes from being damped (breeding ground for bacteria).
Avoid re-using your workout clothes
If possible, avoid reusing your workout clothes.
Reusing your workout clothes adds more oils and sweat to the clothing which will exacerbate the bacterial build-up and make things worse.
In other words, your workout clothes are for one-time use only.
But in case you workout twice a day and have no choice but to reuse your workout clothes, read this article.
Don’t put them in the hamper
Never ever put your wet running clothes in the hamper. Wet clothes won’t dry if they aren’t spread out which makes it a breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria.
Instead, take them out and hang them outdoors until laundry day.
How to wash your workout clothes so they won’t smell
Given the sweat you transfer to your workout clothes, you can’t wash them the same way you wash your casual clothes. Do these instead.
Use less detergent
Use ¾ of the recommended amount of detergent for your workout clothes. Excess detergent is hard to rinse which could trap oils, bacteria, and sweat in your workout clothes.
Also, I recommend using a detergent dedicated to sports apparel like Tide Febreze Sport Odor Defense.
Skip the fabric softener
Fabric softeners trap existing odors and make it hard for the detergent and water to reach them. It also messes with the moisture-wicking properties of your activewear. The result is a lingering awful smell.
Wash your clothes inside out
The inside of your clothes is where the oils, bacteria, and dead skin resides. Make it easier for the detergent to reach them by washing them inside out.
Skip the dyer
Sometimes, using the dryer doesn’t completely dry your garments. Plus, it shrinks them. Instead, dry your clothes under the heat of the sun. The sun’s UV rays will kill bacteria and dry your clothes at the same time.
How to eliminate the smell of your workout clothes
If it’s too late for prevention, all hope is not lost. There are some things you can do to eliminate the odor.
Presoak them in vinegar
Aside from anything kitchen-related, vinegar is also a good odor eliminator too. Mix 1 cup of white vinegar in a gallon of water and presoak your garments for 30 mins just before washing them.
Add baking soda to the rinse cycle
Baking soda is a common household item with a gazillion uses. When it comes to your clothes, simply mix a cup of baking soda into the rinse cycle of your workout clothes.
It will neutralize the smell and eliminate the odor.
Preventing your workout clothes from smelling is just as important as eliminating the odor. The good thing is, it’s not so hard to do.
Simply replace your current routine with the tricks outlined above and your workout clothes will smell fresh every time.
To wrap it all up, prevent your clothes from smelling by practicing good personal hygiene and regularly air drying your clothes after every use. Then, presoak it in white vinegar just before washing. Wash it with less detergent and no fabric softeners. Hang them to dry preferably under the heat of the sun.
You got rid of the smell of your clothes, but you still smell a lingering smell somewhere. Then you must’ve forgotten about your shoes.
If your shoe stinks, I made an article on how to get rid of running shoe smells. Check it out.