Keep Your Workout Clothes Up To...Sniff
Although being physically active can do all sorts of wonderful things for your body, heart and mind, living that #sweatlife can do terrible things to your workout clothes. Namely, it makes them stink.
You know the smell, don’t you? It’s almost a salty scent. A little bit sweet. With a dash of mildew and sourness. One of my friends and fellow yoga teachers calls the smell ripe. Because, like a peach or a cantaloupe, once your body temperature has risen and the sweat has started to percolate, that distinctive aroma becomes so fragrant, it’s impossible to miss. Especially when it’s not just you: it’s your favorite yoga towel; that pair of running tights; your pink sports bra.
Hey - it’s not your fault. We all deal with it — well, except for those obnoxious sonofabitches who for whatever reason don’t sweat when they exercise. #notme The problem is not that you’re a smellier or sweatier person than the miraculously rose-scented yogi on the mat next to you; the problem is most likely that you’re not caring for your workout clothes properly. Now, by “caring,” we do not mean you need to do laundry every day or dry-clean your Lululemon (nor does it mean you need to spend this month’s salary on workout apparel from Lululemon in the first place). It just means you might need to go about washing your clothing a little bit differently. Want to learn how to live that #sweatlife without living that #stenchlife?
Check out my tips for fresh-smelling workout clothes, below:
1. Wash your workout gear separate from your daily wear.
Because workout clothes are typically made of specialized materials (like nylon and lycra and all that good stuff) as opposed to the materials used for your regular clothing (like cotton and linen and all that good stuff) they require different care. Keep reading to learn more about that. However, with different care comes a different wash! I keep three separate laundry baskets at my house and wash three separate loads: lights, darks, workout clothes. Just as like colors are washed together, so too are like materials.
2. Let them air dry if you can’t wash them immediately.
I don’t know about you but I most certainly don’t have the time to wash my exercise clothes every time after I exercise. But instead of taking those sweaty clothes off and letting them fall into a lump inside your laundry basket where they will not receive air circulation, will stay damp and yucky, and will very likely begin to breed more bacteria, go on and let them dry first! Hang them on the door knob; lay them over the shower rod; or get an extra drying rack and dedicate it to your workout clothes. By letting them dry instead of fester, you’ll have a better chance of killing the bacteria you’ve created when the time does come to wash.
Psst - also try washing your workout clothes inside out. Since your sweaty skin that makes contact with the inside of your clothes, you ought to give the insides of your clothes their best shot at getting clean. This is it.
3. Use warm water.
For as long as I’ve been doing laundry (18 years), the rules have been these: I wash my light colored clothing in warm water, I wash my dark colors in cold water, and I do my solid whites on hot (sometimes with bleach!). So I was surprised when I first learned that my workout clothes required warm water to properly cleanse and sanitize — especially since the vast majority of them are dark, cold-water-requiring black in color. Wouldn’t the warmth make the colors run? Wouldn’t this end up doing more damage than good? No. The answer is no. Because your sweat contains bacteria that then gets caught in your workout clothes, it’s critical to wash that clothing in warm water so that it can kill the bacteria. The cold water simply won’t cut it.
That being said, Lululemon does suggest washing your *new* workout clothes in cold water once before you wear them. I suppose this eliminates the concern for said color-running. Regardless of brand, I follow this rule when it comes to any of my new workout apparel!
4. Rinse with White Distilled Vinegar
Really want to make sure all of that stink-causing bacteria gets out of your clothes? Rinse them with vinegar. A common house-cleaning agent and an all-natural product to boot, white vinegar does a great job killing any lingering bacteria and works hard to eliminate grubby odors. Some folks use cider vinegar for this job, which has a higher acid content and is therefore thought to be stronger, but unlike the cider variety, white vinegar contains no tannins (plant dyes) so it won’t stain your clothes. Plus, it’s generally cheaper! Add about ½ cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle (I put mine in the fabric softener tray) so it will run through and rinse your clothing after the detergent has done its job. And no, your clothing will not come out smelling strongly of vinegar. Matter of fact, it should come out pretty much odor-less.
5. Eliminate fabric softener and dryer sheets.
Another rule I picked up at Lululemon, I stay away from fabric softeners of any sort when it comes to my workout clothes. They go in neither the washer nor the dryer. Lululemon claims fabric softener clogs the pores of their technical fabrics used in much of their clothing, which makes their apparel less adept at wicking away sweat...which presumably means the sweat simply gets lodged in the clothes and causes more STINK! That said, I stay far, far away from the stuff when washing my workout clothes.
6. Air dry if possible...or use the dryer on a low setting.
Air drying is the best possible scenario for drying your workout clothes after washing them, since it means the heat won’t alter those special sweat-wicking fibers. But if you don’t have the space or time or desire (me!) to air dry all of your clothing, just put them in the dryer on a low heat setting. This will prevent them from overheating and getting that off putting burn-y smell. And don’t forget: NO dryer sheets!
7. Presoak extra-smelly clothes in lemon juice.
There are some clothes that you may feel you cannot recover; that their smell has gone too far; that the stench runs too deep. But the truth is, there is still a chance! Before you throw them out give this a try: fill a bucket halfway with warm water. Add the juice of one lemon and a ¼ cup of your strongest odor-fighting laundry detergent to the water. Give it a little swirl. Turn your smelly clothes inside out and piece by piece, add them to the water and give them a little scrub. Sometimes, depending on the amount of clothing you have to wash, this has to be done in shifts. Let them soak for 15-20 minutes. Ring them out and then put straight into the wash using the tips above (rinse with vinegar; no fabric softener).
Pssst - sometimes it takes two or three rounds of this to make the stink go away. Kind of a pain, but it sure it less expensive than buying another pair of $125 yoga pants!
8. And when you’ve got that really, really deep-down stink...throw ‘em out.
You’ll thank me later.