Why does athletic wear develop a pungent, “gym” stench over time? How can gym clothes still smell bad after washing and using fabric softener? And why do our kids’ athletic uniforms always smell like dirty socks? These are questions we are frequently asked, and by following a few simple tips below, you can refresh and prolong the life of your athletic wear.
1. Change out of sweaty workout clothing ASAP.
The synthetic fabric used in most athletic wear is tightly woven which allows for stretch and freedom of movement. What it doesn’t allow is bacteria, sweat, body oils, and body odor to evaporate. These odor-causing culprits are trapped and absorbed by the fabric.
2. Don’t allow dirty athletic wear to pile up.
If left to sit around, the bacteria in sweaty clothing will grow and can lead to mold. Some synthetic materials like polyester take a long time to dry which creates the ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. This is ground zero for unpleasant smells. Be sure to share this with your teenage athlete!
3. Inside-out is best.
Think about it, all of the odor-causing body soils like sweat and dead skin cells are trapped inside our workout clothes. By turning clothing inside-out before washing, the water and detergent are able to reach the source of the bad smells. Bonus is less color fade when garments are washed inside-out.
4. Speaking of detergent…less is more.
Washing machines are designed to handle a certain amount of detergent. If excess detergent is added, it doesn’t get washed out and becomes a film that traps odors. A good rule of thumb is to use 2/3 of the amount of detergent recommended for your load size.
5. Fabric Softener is not your workout wear’s friend.
Similar to detergent, fabric softeners create a barrier on athletic wear that locks odors in. Fabric softener also breaks down stretchy materials like Lycra and prevents the wicking power of some fabrics.
6. But vinegar is a friend to your gym clothes.
Soaking smelly athletic wear in one cup of white vinegar and room-temperature water for 30 minutes before doing laundry helps with odor elimination. If there is a product buildup of detergent or fabric softener, run ½ to one cup of white vinegar (depending on load size) to the rinse cycle.
7. Air Dry.
Outside in the sun is best (keep clothing turned inside out to avoid fading), but a drying rack in your laundry room during coolers months is a good alternative too. High heat drying amplifies odors and breaks down fabrics.