How to Really Take Care of Your Running Clothes
We all have our favorites. Running clothes we hate and ones that can never be replaced. Socks we swear by and shorts that have caused us so much chaffing we take them off and put them directly in the trash. Runners are pretty attached to their running clothes. It takes time, money, and effort to get just the right set. The winter set, the summer set, the marathon racing set, the Turkey Trot fun-run set, the backup set… the list is endless. What these all have in common is at the end of the day they are going to get sweaty and then they are going to stink. Not just stink but really stinky. Any runner who denies this fact should ask the closest roommate, spouse or parent. The answer will be resounding agreement in the super stinky realm.
Not only are you left to launder stink, you are left to do so in a manner that not only prolongs the life of your running garb but ensures it continues to perform under its intended purposes and fit. And, unfortunately, the favorites get the worst beating since those items are worn the most. Here are a few tips on how to really take care of your running clothes.
Post Run: Hang to Dry
Cotton is rotten – the slogan you hear so much as an athlete. Maybe, but it sure is easy to wash. Not many of us wear any cotton anymore and are sporting all the wicking goodness that technology has afforded us. Yet, like all other materials it isn’t an instantaneous dry. When you step out of your running clothes into the shower they need to be hung up to get completely dry. One of the ways to help keep the smell and bacteria to a minimum is make sure your clothes are completely dry before they hit the laundry hamper. If you are a gym rat, you hang your clothes up in your car if you will be in the office all day otherwise make sure as soon as you get home you get those clothes out to breathe. Just think about it, pulling still wet clothes out of the hamper 4 days later is not only gross but it will be harboring smelly bacteria that will be near impossible to remove.
To prevent added wear and tear start with cold or cool water. Hot is only going to break down the fabric. Great for your sheets and towels, not your favorite running tights. Up next comes the detergent which is where the advertising geniuses have us confused. Up until a few years ago our normal detergent seemed to work just fine, but now there are a plethora of athletic clothing detergents. There is a large cost difference but not necessarily a huge clean difference. Choose what fits your family budget and need. The most ideal concoction is a mix of store-bought detergent with some homemade help. Before tossing in any clothes add a cup of baking soda into the water and let dissolve. Add half the normal amount of detergent and then your laundry. In the bleach dispenser add half a cup to a full cup of white vinegar. Judge the amount based on load size and stink-level. And don’t worry – there will be no lingering vinegar smell.
Post Wash: Hang to dry
Just like after your actual workout, all things needs to be hung up to dry. Even socks! Sounds a bit nutty but even the best socks will shrink after repeated drying in a dryer. You’ll be left with a sock that is too short and slips on your heel or is so tight on your toes you end up losing a toenail. The easiest thing to do is buy a drying rack and utilize its compact space that allows a lot of clothes to be hung on. Want to use what you already have? Hangers with clips are great for gloves, socks, leggings and shorts. Standard shirt hangers will work for everything else. And probably not shockingly, the clothes will dry pretty quickly.
Socks, shorts and sports bras should be washed after every single wear. Unless you are on vacation and need to pack lightly or make an error in packing, there really isn’t an excuse. And even in the hotel room you can do a dunk-a-roo in the sink or wash them quickly in the shower with plain water and hang to dry. When it comes to cold weather most runners have one or two hats, a set or two of gloves, a vest and/or a good running jacket. But when it comes to layering, luckily, you don’t have to wash everything, every time. When wearing layers you are at liberty to get a little more wear out of the outer layers. If you wear two pairs of gloves you might be able to get a second wear out of a set. You can be the judge. This, of course, is only true if the elements don’t give them a beating.
Storing clothes by season will help you from having to rifle through bunch non-season clothing and let you rotate easier through clothes you are utilizing. Always place newly laundered clothes on the bottom so you can spread out wear. Do not wear your running clothes for day-to-day activities. A random errand is ok (although you should know better and change out of sweaty clothes!) but once an item becomes something you toss on to hit the grocery, it needs to make the switch out of the running drawer to the retired running drawer (AKA regular wardrobe). It’s a fantastic and financially responsible idea to use running clothes that outlived their actual function for day-to-day but the clothes do not need to live in both worlds.
A runner can never have too many running clothes. No matter if we get a great deal on them or blow out budget to buy them, we want them to last. With a little effort we can extend their life. Unless we lose that new sock on the way to the laundry.