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Tips and Tricks to Getting the Most Out of Your Workout Clothes and Making Them Last

Updated on March 28, 2016

Just like your favorite shirt probably requires special attention at the cleaners, your go-to workout gear might also need a little TLC in the laundry room. How you wash and dry your apparel can make the difference. Though they take a beating from your body, they need just as much care in the wash as your office clothing.

Performance fabrics are made to wick away sweat, but, unfortunately, that means they lock in the odor and sweat. You’re sweating in them, and they’re also absorbing all the dead skin cells and oils that slough off your body when you exercise so to start, you need to separate your workout clothes from everyday laundry. But while your workout duds dirty more than your normal clothing, they’re also more delicate. In particular, the expensive fabrics used to make your gear stretchy and supportive react poorly to two things: detergent and fabric softener.

Detergent Woes

You may add extra detergent to you're smelly gym clothes thinking that more detergent with help fight those stains and smells, but more is actually worse. Why, you ask? Because, You're washing machine has a standard cycle that’s set to handle a certain amount of detergent. Any excess doesn’t get washed out. It just builds up on you're clothing, trapping dead skin and creating an ideal environment for fungus. A good rule of thumb, use only half the usual amount of detergent, skip it altogether, or opt for a detergent made especially for workout clothes like Hex, for example.

If you are noticing any strange smells on your clothes after washing, that’s probably mildew.

Scary Softeners

Softener is like Kryptonite to your workout clothes, it damages anything that stretches. Fabric softener also leaves behind a coating that will trap smells and can become difficult to clean away.

When you remove your clothes out of the wash and you get a whiff of something that doesn’t smell clean ,that’s because the fabric softener is locking in the odors. To repel this smell, adding half a cup of white vinegar to your wash cycle will help. It acts as both a fabric softener and an odor killer. Baking soda is another ingredient you probably already have in your kitchen that can get rid of unpleasant odors. Put one cup of baking soda into the washing machine and let the magic happen.

Fabric softener also breaks down stretchy materials, like Lycra or Spandex, that workout clothes are often made of. So, not only does it make your clothes smell, it also ruins the way they fit.

Sports Bra 101

You should be hand washing and line-drying bras. Your sports bra is very delicate and rubbing against other pieces of laundry can cause microscopic abrasions that build up over time. Plus, the heat from the dryer, even if you keep it low, can dry out the lycra, making your bras less stretchy than you want them to be.

We all have busy lives, so, if you need to throw some in the washing machine, first place them in a lingerie bag or pillowcase to minimize how much they rub against other clothes. Always add them to your load of delicates and wash them on a gentle cycle, using cold water. Remember, never use fabric softeners or hard detergents.

Do this, and even if you wear them regularly, your sports bras will last a good six months to a year.

Air Dry Your Clothes

Sun and fresh air is the best natural way to get rid of odors. After you wash your clothes, hang them outside and let the sun do it's work. Just make sure you turn them inside out first so they don't fade. If it's too cold to hang them outside lay them flat to dry.

Cleaning Your Shoes

Don't even think about putting them in the washer! Close the lid and walk away! Instead, get out an old toothbrush and bar of soap to scrub away that gunk. Submerging shoes in a spin cycle can break down the bits and pieces, cushioning included, that are vital to preventing sports injuries.

If your sneakers stink, try spraying the interiors with Odor-Eaters or Febreze. You can also stuff them with crumpled up newspaper post-run to absorb excess sweat.

No matter what the state of your shoes, you should replace your running shoes every 300 to 400 miles. In the case of both running and cross-training shoes, pay attention to any aches and pains that can’t be attributed to any changes in you're training. If something hurts, it’s a sign that your ready for a new pair of shoes.

Now that you know how to do the gym laundry, go unload that gym bag full of sweaty stuff, scrub up your sneakers and prepare to enter the gym looking fresher than ever!


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