Cleaning Your Running Gear: How To Get Rid Of The Stink For Good
Running is, by definition, a dirty business. We run, we get sweaty (and often muddy) and we return home happy. Simple, right? Except for one little detail: Laundry. While mud, sweat, and endorphins are the stuff that good runs are made of, it can turn laundry day into a complete nightmare.
Just ask any devoted runner’s wife or mom, and they’re sure to tell you that the stink is real. And that the stink can also be extremely stubborn. But all hope isn’t lost. There are ways to banish the stink for good.
What causes running gear to smell?
But before we get to some tips and tricks for keeping your running gear fresh, let’s get to the bottom of what causes it to smell in the first place. According to Mary Zeitler, a consumer scientist at the Whirlpool Corporation Institute of Home Science, “odor in workout clothing is most commonly caused by a buildup of sweat and bacteria from your body”.
Zeitler adds that the way in which you store your sweaty workout clothes can lead to the formation of additional odors. For example, leaving sweaty running gear in zipped-up gym bags, tightly-packed laundry baskets or closed lockers can serve as the ideal environment for foul-smelling bacteria to further multiply and flourish.
Tips and tricks for getting rid of the stink for good
And while Zeitler’s advice should give you a pretty good indication of what not to do with your sweaty running gear, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts to ensure that your gear stays fresher for longer.
1. Buy smart
Outsmart the stink before it even starts by investing in running gear that contains odor-control technology. Options include gear treated with different forms of silver, as well as gear made from naturally anti-microbial fibers, such as bamboo or wool. Be sure to study clothing labels carefully so that you know exactly what you’re getting.
2. Wash your gear as soon as possible after a run
Stop the bacteria in its tracks by washing your gear immediately after a run. Make it a habit to pop your gear straight into the washing machine before hopping into the shower – by the time you’re dressed and ready, your gear will be clean and ready to hang.
3. And if you can’t wash your gear immediately after a run, don’t shove it into a bag
Sure, we don’t all have the luxury of ending every run at home. Running to work, meeting a colleague for lunch or squeezing in a post-work track session all means that washing your gear will have to wait. So if your day is crammed, be sure to hang out your sweaty gear to dry before popping it back into your gym bag or into the laundry basket. Why? Because dark, damp conditions (such as that found in a stuffy gym bag containing wet, sweaty gear) are ideal for bacteria to flourish. Which, in turn, translates to a bigger stench.
4. Wash your gear after every run
This one goes without saying. Never wear the same piece of running gear on back-to-back runs without washing it first. It may smell okay to you, but, trust us, your running buddies will disagree.
5. Turn your gear inside-out before washing
Sweat and bacteria tend to concentrate in parts of your gear that physically came into contact with your skin on the run. So be sure to turn your gear inside-out before washing to allow your detergent to do its thing.
6. Don’t overload the washing machine
Overloading your washing machine may mean that not all clothing surfaces come into contact with detergent. It may also mean that sweat and bacteria are not properly rinsed out of your gear. So resist the temptation to overload your machine in an attempt to get more done. When it comes to banishing the stink, less is more when choosing your load size.
7. Supplement your laundry regime with natural deodorizers
Good old baking soda. It’s cheap, easily available and surprisingly effective as a natural deodorizer. Simply add a cup full of baking soda to a load of washing along with your normal detergent, and watch it work its magic.
And if your gear is extra funky, pre-wash your load with a cup of white vinegar (i.e. let it run through a short washing cycle, like the delicate cycle, with nothing but water and white vinegar). Once the pre-wash is done, let it go through a second, normal washing cycle, with both baking soda and your normal detergent, as detailed above.
8. Use a sports-specific washing detergent
Sport-specific washing detergents, like Nathan’s Sport-Wash, are specifically formulated to get to the root of even the funkiest workout smells. And while they may be a bit pricey, converts swear by their sink-eliminating powers. So shop around and find one that works for you.
9. Skip the softener
Yes, it makes your regular clothes smell fresh and breezy. But when it comes to running gear, it’s best to skip the softener. Why? Fabric softener tends to coat the individual fibers of clothes, thereby making it impermeable to water and detergent. Which means that, instead of masking that funky smell, fabric softener may actually be indirectly contributing to it.
10. Say good-bye
And if your lucky cotton race shirt that dates from the early 90s is still funky after applying all of these tricks, it may be time to bid it a fond farewell. Because while, for you, it may stir up warm and fuzzy memories of clocking that killer PB, it’s also causing everyone in your vicinity to gasp for air. Just get rid of it!
- The Absolute Best Way to Get the Stink Out of Workout Clothes, Online publication, Aug 23, 2018 ,
- Running Gear That Stops The Stink Before It Starts, Online publication, Jan 21, 2017 ,
- Stop the stink, Online publication, Sep 04, 2014 ,