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The Best Way to Wash Workout Clothes – Ultimate Cleaning Guide

February 15, 2019

Exercise is one of the greatest things that you can do for your health. Not only does it lower stress, but it reduces the risk of several diseases including obesity and diabetes. When it comes to working out, different people have different styles. For instance, some may enjoy going for a run while others prefer going to the gym. Either way, you’d need to be properly dressed. After all, jeans are not meant for exercising in.

Ideally, you’d want to wear something like activewear; these types of clothes are specially designed to keep you dry throughout your workout routine. They might cost a little extra at the store, but trust me—they’re worth it! In some cases, they might even improve your overall performance.

Having said all that, they still get stinky with sweat. For this reason, most of us will bring a change of clothes with us to the gym. At the end of the day, nobody wants to sit around in a sweaty shirt. Still, you don’t want to neglect them; if possible, you should always give them a good wash when you get home. Doing so will prevent them from getting even stinkier—as bacteria proliferates on the fabric.

what to wear at gym

But wait—what’s the best way to wash workout clothes? Can you just toss them into the washing machine? What sets them apart from other clothing? These are some of the topics that we will be discussing about below.

What’s Special About Washing Gym Clothes?

Gym clothes, aka activewear, are different from regular clothes in that they are meant for exercising. To be more specific, they are made out of special materials that are designed to repel odor. Take, for example, polyester. Commonly used in workout clothing, these types of fiber naturally pull moisture away from the skin. By allowing them to evaporate freely, it also helps to regulate your body temperature!

In contrast, traditional materials such as cotton hold onto sweat and odors tightly. On top of that, they can rub against your skin, which can cause irritation over time.

How to Hand Wash Workout Clothes

Sometimes, it’s just more convenient to hand wash your clothes. For one thing, not everybody has a washing machine at home. As an added bonus, this method is also gentler on your clothing!

mixing soapy water

Preparing the Water 

As far as hang washing goes, you’ll need a sink or a container. Before you throw your activewear in, however, you should probably give the sink (or container) a good clean. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget just how dirty they can be! You wouldn’t want to transfer the grease in your sink onto your clothes, right? Personally, I would scrub it clean with a sponge and a little bit of soap.

As a general rule, you always want to use cold water when you’re hand washing. However, you could use warm water, if needed. Never use hot water as it can lead to shrinking and color bleeding. Once you’ve filled it with water, you’ll want to add soap—just water by itself won’t be enough to get rid of the sweat. Not just any soap, though, you want to use a gentle cleanser that’s suitable for activewear; something like ACTIVE detergent would be perfect.

Note: Even with activewear, it’s a good idea to double check the care label before you begin washing. You never know when something might have special requirements!

Adding Detergent to the Water

Pour a small amount of ACTIVE detergent into the water. Next, mix the liquid by swirling your hand—you should see bubbles on the top. When that’s done, add the gym clothes into the solution. Make sure that each of the items is thoroughly wet. Depending on their size, you might have to push the clothes down into the liquid yourself. From there, you want to let the clothes sit for at least 15 minutes—possibly longer if they’re really stinky.

Pro-tip: Never overload your sink or container. Not only will your clothes be harder to wash, but you also run the risk of having the soapy water spill out.

If there are noticeable stains on your workout clothes, add a small amount of ACTIVE detergent to the area before soaking. Lightly rub it into the spot—this should help with its removal. In some cases, however, you might need to use a specialized spot remover.

Washing and Drying the Items

When that’s done, you can begin to hand wash the clothes. From the water, pick up the individual items. Gently rub the fabric against itself to get rid of the dirt and oils. After you’ve washed everything, lift them up and drain the dirty water. Fill the sink or container with clean water and put the clothes back into rinse. Using your hands, swish them through the water; this will help to remove the soap. Alternatively, you can rinse them under the sink (this might be hard to do, though, if you’re cleaning lots of items)

how to hand wash gym clothes

For items that are lightweight, such as sports bras, you can hang them up to drip dry. For heavier garments, lay them flat on a clean towel. Lightly press the clothing into the towel; this will get rid of some of the water. Depending on how wet they are, you might want to repeat this step a few times. Assuming that your workout clothes are made out of some sort of synthetic material, they should dry fairly quickly.

Note: Never wring out your gym clothes like a towel—this will damage the synthetic fibers.

Washing Machine Instructions for Gym Clothes – Best Practices

If your gym clothes are really musty, it might be a better idea to put them into the washing machine. Another benefit is that you’ll be able to wash more clothes in less time! Before we get into the how’s, though, it’s important to note that you should only wash like colors together. If you have a lot of clothes to wash, this might mean that you’ll have multiple loads.

Delicates, such as sports bras, should always be put into a mesh laundry bag; this will protect them in the washer. Don’t have one? No problem—you can just use a clean pillowcase. Other items such as shirts, leggings, and pants, should be turned inside out. Not only will this prevent lint from gathering on the surface, but it will expose the dirty layer to the surface.

how to wash gym clothes with washer

As is the case with hand washing, you want to wash with cold water. Select a gentle cycle and add the right amount of ACTIVE detergent into the machine. If necessary, you can add a bit of white vinegar into the mix to help remove odor. Do not use fabric softener—it will prevent your clothes from being able to properly pull moisture away from the skin. Press start and let the cycle run

Pro-tip: Try to clean your washing machine once every few months—this will help to prevent bacteria from growing inside.

Take your clothes out when the cycle is done. Drape them over a drying rack and allow them to air dry. Alternatively, you can hang them up. Do not put your garments into the dryer—especially delicates such as sports bras. Despite being heat resistant, synthetics such as polyester and nylon can shrink or get permanent wrinkles in high temperatures. If you have to, put the dryer on the lowest heat setting, however, it’s not recommended.

Note: Synthetic materials such as polyester are quick drying. Save yourself some energy and just let them air dry!

Tips for Removing Musty Odors from Workout Clothing

In some cases, putting your clothes into the washing machine will not be enough to get rid of the sweaty smell. To really get rid of the odor, you might have to do a few extra steps.

One of the greatest ways to get rid of the stink is to pre-soak the items. Before tossing them into the washer, fill the sink with water and add a little bit of ACTIVE detergent. Gently agitate it with your hand to mix the solution. Once you see soap bubbles, place the gym clothes in—make sure that each of the garments is thoroughly saturated in the solution. Allow everything to soak for 15-30 minutes (if necessary, you can leave it in for longer). When time is up, drain the dirty water, rinse the clothes, and put them into the washing machine (as per the instructions described earlier).

how to deodorize with vinegar

As an alternative, you can soak your gym clothes in vinegar and water. Ultimately, you’d follow the same steps, but instead of detergent, you would add white vinegar to the sink. You’d be surprised how effective it is at getting rid of smells! As mentioned earlier, you can also pour a bit of vinegar into the machine itself for some extra deodorizing power.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your clothes will start to stink again if you leave them in the washing machine for too long. Moist and wet, the inside environment tends to attract all sorts of bacteria—all of which would multiply and thrive, given the chance. For this reason, it’s important that you take your gym clothes out as soon as you can once the wash cycle is complete.

Before you do any washing or soaking, it also helps if you let your clothes air out. If possible, avoid stuffing the items into a bag immediately after taking them off—that will only encourage more bacteria growth, which would lead to an even nastier odor.

Best Detergent for Workout Clothes

Want to keep your workout clothes clean and odor-free? If so, it’s important that you get the right type of detergent. As you can expect, not all detergents are the same. In fact, many are not designed to remove smells and odors from activewear. This is one of the main reasons why your clothes might come out smelly even when you’ve washed them.

Instead of using something that’s meant for regular clothes, you want to get a product that’s specially formulated to get rid of sweat and oils. ACTIVE Detergent is a great example of this. In contrast to regular detergents, many of which are geared toward “traditional fabrics”, ACTIVE detergent is capable of dissolving both sweat and oil. Plant-based, the formula is unique in that it features enzymes, all of which are designed to break down the gunk. With it, you’ll be able to extend the life of your clothes and increase your performance at the gym.

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