Ask an Expert: Best Way to Wash Workout Clothes

Help! I recently rewarded myself with some new workout gear for sticking to my training plan and they’re already getting stinky! Do you have any advice on the best way to wash workout clothes to keep them smelling fresh?  -Lindsay Rewarding yourself with some new gear is a great idea! And keeping them smelling fresh? An even better idea. There are a few factors that can contribute to stinky workout clothes and they are actually pretty easy to address. Odor happens when sweat (and its associated bacteria) build up in your clothes over time. Too much soap (who knew?), the water repellence of most fabric softeners, and the wicking action of many technical fabrics all make this more likely. Your goal is to remove excess soap and bacteria from your clothes, improving the saturation of the fabric. I recommend the same methods that have seen me through cloth diapering two children (if it worked for that, it can handle your gym clothes!). Use less soap than you would usually add (like about ½ to ¼ of a regular load) and add a generous amount of baking soda to your washing cycle. You can even do this as a pre-soak if your clothes are really stinky. You’ll need to make the call as to whether your clothes can handle being washed on hot, but that will be more effective at killing bacteria. Finally, skip the fabric softener and instead add a cup (or more) of white vinegar to your rinse cycle. If your machine has a fabric softener compartment, you can add it directly to that at the beginning of the load. The vinegar will make sure your clothes are rinsed fully of the sweat and bacteria (as well as excess soap) leaving you smelling fresh heading into your next workout. If you find yourself continuing to battle with stubborn odors, this website offers the best list of solutions I’ve seen. Good luck and enjoy your new gear! About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin.