After an efficient and pleasant workout, we feel better and more attractive. While our bodies are fairly easy to cleanse after a nice shower, it can be difficult to get rid of the lingering odor in our workout clothes even after washing.
If you’re struggling to get the smell out of your clothes, don’t worry, it’s a problem most gym-goers face.
“It turned out that the odor from your workout clothes was due to bacteria rather than sweat,” says Sarah Clemence, founder of Busy Blooming Joy, a cleaning blog.
He goes on to explain, “We all have bacteria on our skin, and humidity and heat create an environment in which bacteria pass out, especially when we sweat in our high-performance synthetic clothing.” As the bacteria feed on our sweat, they produce waste (yes, bacterial feces) that cause the infamous “gym wear” smell.”
You may think you’ve tried everything to keep your gym clothes smelling new. We asked the experts how to prevent bacteria from growing in your workout clothes for you.
Jennifer Kropf, editor-in-chief of Healthy Happy Impactful, said she has a trick that works wonders with gym clothes.
“Soak your clothes in some vinegar before you wash them,” advises Kropf. “Vinegar is a natural and effective way to break down fats and neutralize bacteria. After soaking, wash your clothes as usual – preferably with a detergent made specifically for sportswear.”
If you want to try this method, you can try soaking your clothes in white distilled vinegar for 10 to 30 minutes.
Don’t wait to wash your clothes after a workout
Depending on how many clothes you have in your dirty basket, this may not be possible for everyone. But many experts say that dirty sportswear should not be left lying around for too long.
Seven-year-old yoga teacher Melissa Burgard explained why you need to wash your clothes as soon as possible:
“The worst thing you can do is leave your workout clothes in your gym bag until you wash them,” he said. “This can also cause mold to develop, which creates a foul odor. If you can’t wash it right away, you can at least hang it to dry.
You can try sports detergents
Kropf pointed out that there are special detergents for sportswear on the market. While regular detergents are designed to remove dirt and stains from your everyday clothing, you may need something more powerful for your athletic wear.
“To keep your workout clothes smelling fresh, it can be important to use a detergent that’s specifically designed for athletic wear,” said Lauren Doss, owner of Nashville Maids. “This type of laundry detergent is formulated to remove sweat and oils from fabrics more effectively than traditional laundry soaps.”
Avoid fabric softeners “because they clog the fibers and trap bacteria,” Burgard said.
Benefit from the power of the sun
“Sunlight is a natural bactericide,” explained Clemens. “Try exposing your clothes to the sun for an hour or two.”
Hanging clothes outside might seem like an old-fashioned way, but it can help freshen them up without the need for additional items.
This is also related to a piece of advice from Kropf: “Damp clothing can be a breeding ground for bacteria. So make sure it is completely dry before storing it.”
Choose the fabric of your clothes well
“Choosing the right fabric can also play an important role,” said Kropf.
The next time you shop for sportswear, try to avoid synthetic materials.
“Synthetic fabrics like polyester are particularly prone to retaining odors, primarily because they’re made of plastic and plastic isn’t absorbent,” explained Clemence. “So your sweat doesn’t get absorbed into the fabric – it just stays there and provides a breeding ground for bacteria.”
However, there is an exception for plastics. Special performance fabrics from some sportswear brands, such as Nike’s Dri-Fit apparel, are designed to wick sweat away from the body and keep you feeling fresh. Even with this type of clothing, it can take a little more effort to get rid of the lingering stench after a good workout.
If you’re looking for natural fibers, choose something that doesn’t trap odors, like cotton or bamboo. There’s a downside, though: “Cotton fabrics may not be as comfortable as synthetic fabrics during intense workouts,” says Clemence.
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