Why do gym clothes smell... even after laundry day?
Whether you’re an exercise enthusiast or the parent of children who play sports, you are likely looking for the best way to get sweat smell out of clothes. Because athletic wear is especially tough to wash, we are here to explain how to deal with your post-workout digs.
A few factors come into play when it comes to that lingering musty gym clothes smell. The primary culprits are bacteria, sweat and body oils, which build up inside synthetic fabrics and cause a literal stink.
With sports clothing the design of the fabric is to keep moisture out. What that can do is also keep salt, bacteria and sweat in the fabric. Although the garment’s material is part of the issue, what really makes it a problem is the way we wash clothes. If you wash your clothes at 90 degrees Fahrenheit, with a non-specialized detergent, in a regular cycle, you don’t kill bacteria. You just mix it up. Plus if you use regular laundry soap (or worse...fabric softener), those cleaners will eventually leave a residue on the fabric that holds the odors even more.
Do your favorite workout tees come out of the laundry smelling good, but after being worn for a couple hours they start to stink like a wet dog?
You have a product buildup situation going on. This happens when you use too much detergent, or when you use products, like fabric softener, that trap odor-causing bacteria. So you need two things here: a fix for the buildup followed by a few tweaks to your gym clothes laundering routine.
To reverse buildup, wash the clothes using half a dose of detergent, and add half a cup to a full cup of white vinegar — depending on the size of the load — to the rinse cycle. The vinegar will eliminate lingering odors, as well as break down the buildup of detergent and laundry boosters.
Wash Gym Clothes Separately
We’ve discovered through the years that washing our workout clothes full of sweat smell along with regular wash is a very bad idea. Because gym clothes often smell even after washing, now so will all of your non-gym clothes. Yuck! Nothing like putting on a clean shirt that smells like sweat.
It's okay to wait a few days before you wash, but avoid re-wearing, which will cause body soil (dead skin cells, sweat, and body oils) to set in and bacteria to multiply. Also be sure NOT to pile your wet clothes into the laundry hamper, or leave them in a ball on the floor. That’s a lot of sweat just sitting there, asking for mold growth potential. Let wet workout clothes air dry by draping them over the side of the laundry basket. Hanging your workout attire to dry before tossing in the hamper can help keep stink from setting in and will reduce bacteria by 90%.
If you have the time, use this trick to prevent odors from locking into your gear: Immediately after wearing an item, soak it in a solution of cool water and a half cup of baking soda for an hour.
The Type of Detergent Matters
Wash with a heavy-duty detergent that contains enough enzymes to 'bust' the oily body soil and one that is specifically formulated to remove (not simply mask) odor. Boulder Clean's Power Sport is made for the job of odor removal and can remove chemical odors, toxic vapors and other stubborn odors like workout clothes smell. You can also use it to remove mildew smell from towels. This odor eliminating detergent is made from plant, mineral and non-toxic ingredients, and safe to use on all machine types including HE machines.
Avoid fabric softener. While it can leave your clothes soft and smelling great, it’s made with synthetic fragrances. It’s likely to mask the odors instead of removing them.
Get the Detergent Dose Right
Using too much detergent is probably the biggest mistake people make when it comes to laundry, and if there’s one place where we can encourage you to kick the habit, it’s when washing sweaty, smelly exercise apparel. Using more detergent won’t leave your clothes cleaner; instead, it leaves a buildup of soap residue that traps odors in clothes after going through the wash.
Wash a Smaller Load
Make sure you do not overload your washer with smelly workout clothes! The product needs to be able to move freely within the wash.
Wash Clothes Inside Out
The sweat and oils will be on the inside of your clothes. If you wash them inside out, the detergent and water has a better chance of tackling the sweat directly.
Use the Right Settings
A "sanitary" (hot water) setting can kill odor-causing bacteria, but it can also damage synthetic fabrics like spandex, so check the care label on your favorite pair of leggings. Use the warmest water temperature allowed by the care label. Most workout clothes are made of synthetic fibers that require cold water washing. That means you must remove sweat stains before you start washing your workout clothes because you won't have hot water to help you out. If it says wash in cold water most high-quality laundry detergents can give a deep clean even in cold water.
Also set your machine setting to use more agitation (heavy soil) and use an extra rinse at the end of the cycle.
Air Dry Workout Clothes After Washing
Heat is not your workout clothes’ friend. Not only can heat break down the fibers in your clothing, but heat can also bake the sweat smell into your clothing. Once that happens you’ve never going to get the sweat smell out of clothes. So if you don’t want clothes to smell like sweat after washing, don’t put them in the dryer.