We’re all allowed unlimited outdoor exercise, so you could make better use of your workout clothes.
First published: May 27, 2020
Most sportswear is made from synthetic fabrics, such as acrylic or polyester, which means you need to wash it slightly differently than the rest of your wardrobe.
Read on for our top tips for cleaning your workout gear to keep it in pristine condition.
1. Let sweaty clothes breathe before washing
It’s very tempting to dump all your sweaty, smelly clothes in the wash basket as soon as you’re done, but that’s not a good idea.
Without space to breathe and for sweat to evaporate, odor and bacteria can linger longer and get worse, as well as being even harder to get rid of.
2. Turn the clothes inside out
Odor bacteria will accumulate wherever it is warm and humid. As such, your armpits are their favorite breeding ground.
Also, antiperspirants and deodorants can build up in the armpits of your workout clothes.
To give your washing machine the best chance of removing all of this, turn your clothes inside out before putting them in the machine for a wash.
It will also help protect your favorite items from pulling and snagging.
3. Use less detergent
If your clothes smell bad, it’s very tempting to get overly enthusiastic and use a lot of detergent. But too much will cause product to build up on your clothes.
This detergent buildup acts as a breeding ground for bacteria, quickly creating lingering odors.
Sometimes your clothes smell great when they come out of the washing machine, but quickly become smelly when you wear them. This is because bacteria multiply due to your body heat, and the humidity helps create the perfect environment for them.
Try to use half the detergent you would normally use.
And if your clothes are already suffering from this problem, add between 100ml and 250ml of white vinegar (depending on the size of the load) to a rinse cycle. Then wash the clothes as usual.
Find the best detergent by reading our Opinions on laundry detergents and detergents
4. Do not use fabric softener
Unlike natural fabrics, synthetic fibers do not need fabric softener.
In fact, fabric softener can build up on some clothes and cause bacteria to persist in certain areas.
This bacteria can make your clothes smell more easily. So even after washing and smelling good initially, the item will start to smell bad soon after wearing it for a while.
If you’re washing spandex, you’ll also want to avoid fabric softener like the plague. It will simply stay on your clothes and leave a residue that can dull the finish and attract smelly bacteria.
5. Avoid heat for stretchy items
Heat breaks down the spandex in the stretchy parts of your clothes, including leggings.
Remember to go down to 30°C or up to 20°C when washing to keep your clothes in good condition.
Our recent low temperature washing survey found that if you use liquid detergent, it should still clean well.
If you want to iron your sportswear, we advise you to choose a low temperature and avoid stretchy parts.
6. Know how to reduce microplastics
Every time you wash synthetic clothes, you release thousands of tiny plastic fibers called microplastics.
But there are ways to reduce our impact.
- Wash your synthetics separately and remove hard fabrics like denim.
- Choose a cycle that uses less water, such as an eco cycle. You can normally find the water consumption of the different programs in the instruction manual.
- Invest in a laundry bag that protects your clothes and collects microplastics
To learn more about microplastics and the damage they cause, read our article on how to stop the plastic in your clothes from polluting the planet every time you do your laundry.
7. No clothes dryer!
It makes sense, if you avoid heat while washing, to also avoid it while drying.
The harsh, dry heat of a clothes dryer will deteriorate the spandex of stretchy leggings or short waistbands.
Instead, let your gym air dry on an air rack or clothesline to better protect the fibers and help them last longer.
Discover what is the best way to dry your laundry.
How to clean your exercise or yoga mat and towel
Depending on the composition of your yoga mat or towel, it may be machine washable.
Many yoga towels, designed for use during hot yoga, are made from microfiber and can go in the washing machine on cold.
For hard rubber yoga mats, you will need to wipe them down with a disinfectant to clean them and prevent odors from developing.
Avoid using harsh chemicals or scrubs as this may damage the rubber or plastic of the mat and cause it to peel over time.
For more tips, read our full yoga mat and accessories buying guide.
How to wash boxing gloves
Unfortunately, no matter how bad your boxing gloves smell, get dirty, or sweat, you shouldn’t put them in the washing machine or dryer.
Heat and water damage the leather of the gloves. While saturation may cause mold and mildew to develop during the long drying time.
But all is not lost; you can prevent odors in the first place by wiping the gloves with a cloth after each use and spraying on a disinfectant (designed for sportswear).
To let odors escape, leave the straps open so air can circulate and don’t leave your gloves in a bag between uses.
To find out how to wash everything from bras to Uggs, read our comprehensive guide explaining how best to wash your clothes.