How to get the smell out of your workout clothes

Ever try to put on your favorite running shirt, shorts, sports bra, or jacket and wonder how on earth your workout clothes smell like you pulled them from a garbage dumpster?  Sometimes our own natural sweat gets the best of us and shows its presence in the form of awful smells trapped in the fabric of our favorite dri-fit running apparel.

Some of you may wear your favorite running clothes for only one workout and decide to wear it the next day in an attempt to save on laundry space or even save water.  I know this sounds gross to some, but a lot of athletes do it.  However, even if you are the type to wash your running attire often, you may still be surprised by the sneak attack your clothes have for you in the form of yesterday’s good ol’ sweaty workout smells. So how is it that your workout clothes still smell, and how do you get the smell out?

Where do awful smells come from?

Anytime you think of bad smells, you can certainly associate them with bacteria.  Let’s use bad breath and stinky garbage cans for example.  If you don’t want to brush your teeth, floss, and/or scrape the bacteria from your tongue, you are certain to have bad breath…and bad oral hygiene of course (yuck).  How about the stinky garbage in the kitchen that needs to be taken out to the dumpster?  That stinky-ness is coming from the bacteria having a party with the rest of the refuse in the garbage bag.

Why do people smell?

Now that we have associated bacteria with terrible smells using dental hygiene and garbage cans as the example, let’s compare bacteria with our body odor.  When we workout, we create body heat and we create moisture (through sweat) in certain places where bacteria loves to hang out.  These main areas are the armpits, and the lower private parts area. 

While working out the body not only sweats out water, but the water is carrying chemical compounds that later metabolize into the bacteria causing odors that can be trapped in your favorite quick-dry workout clothes.

How do my workout clothes still stink after a load of laundry?

If you are like most runners, and you may plan on going for an early morning run before school or work.  The only the problem is that your workout clothes that you pulled out of the dryer in the morning might still have some lingering odors that you can smell.  This may instantly change the way you feel about how pumped you were about your morning workout.

So, even though you washed your clothes in the washer with the rest of the laundry, how come your workout clothes still smell?  What happens is the bacteria ends up getting trapped in the fibers of your favorite sweat-wicking synthetic workout clothes and washing them with the rest of the laundry just isn’t enough to get the smell out.  You need to get deep into the fibers and dish soap acts better than laundry detergent when attacking the source of bad odor (bacteria).


How to get the bad smell out of your workout clothes.


Step 1:   Don’t let your sweaty workout clothes stay in a moist environment for long. 

The longer you let your wet and smelly workout clothes hide in a backpack or enclosed area, the more intense your workout clothes may smell.  Every chance you can, either wash your workout clothes right away or put them somewhere where they can “air out”.

Step 2:  Hand wash your workout clothes with dish soap.

Using dish soap is the most important step.  Some people claim that anti-bacterial dish soap works best, but you will have to test this yourself.  Now, I know it sounds like a lot of work to hand wash your clothes with dish soap, but it’s a lot easier than you think.

If you have a running shirt that smells really bad in the armpit area, get the shirt wet and then take dish soap and put some in the armpit areas and rub them together to create a nice foamy lather.  You can also wash the entire shirt and not just the armpit areas.  Let the soap soak in for a few minutes and then rinse as you wring out the soap.

For convenience, the easiest place to wash your smelly workout clothes is while you shower.  In between washing your body and hair, you can take turns trading off while you wash your workout clothes.

Step 3:  Dry your workout clothes quickly without putting them in the dryer.

The sooner you can get your freshly clean workout clothes dry, the better.  Let’s say you have a running shirt you just washed and want to dry it without doing a load of laundry.  You can hang your running shirt on a hanger and place it in front of a fan turned on high.  The fast moving air flow will run through the fibers and dry it out in no time with little energy waste (dryer).

Now that you have an idea how to get your workout gear smelling fresh again, get out there and enjoy your odor-free workouts.