Little-known fact: Your sweat doesn’t stink. It only turns sour when it mingles with the bacteria on your skin. And while the new performance fabrics do a great job at wicking sweat away from your skin, they also provide an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. The result: your gym clothes acquire a certain odour over time, unlike your old cotton duds.
Bacteria love the polyester blends used for technical clothing, says Mike Eaton of Hero Clean. The unique weave of the fibres gives microbes tons of places to hide. Even regular laundering won’t wash them away. And things get decidedly more rank if you let those sweaty workout clothes stew in a closed gym bag, even if it’s only for a few hours.
“Most guys don’t realize the level of maintenance these new materials demand to keep them stink-free,” Eaton says.
So spare your fellow gymgoers—and your own schnoz—by following this three step cleaning protocol.
1. Pre-rinse and Air Out
Prompt attention is key. Eaton wears his workout clothes right into the shower and wrings them out afterward. It’s worth the strange looks to immediately flush out much of that sweat and bacteria. Throw them in a bag, and then wash your gear as soon as you can when you get home. If that’s not possible, at least hang the clothes up to air-dry. A damp pile on the laundry room floor is no longer a viable option.
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2. Power-Wash the Nasty Items
Add 1 cup white vinegar and 1 tablespoon baking soda to the washer water. That’ll separate bacteria from the fabric. Still stink? Soak the items for an hour in a sinkful of water with 1 cup white vinegar, 2 teaspoons hydrogen peroxide, and 2 teaspoons baking soda. Then launder with vinegar and baking soda as above. Or try a heavy-duty sport wash like Nathan, Atsko, or Hex Performance.
3. Don’t Undo Your Efforts
Avoid using fabric softeners and dryer sheets with these fabrics—they leave a coating that may compromise the wicking ability. And launder your gym bag occasionally. First, though, check the tag. If the bag is machine washable, turn it inside out and remove any metal parts you can. Then wash it on a delicate cycle, and hang to dry. Leather bag? Stuff it with newspaper to neutralize odours.