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Random Running Items that are Harboring Germs

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Running clothes can be some of the dirtiest, slinkiest, laundry ever. It’s wet from sweat, the elements, the occasional Nuun we spill down the front of us. It’s just altogether gross and every runner knows it. There is no denying it; regardless of who does the laundry in the house normally, often a runner will be responsible for their own load of running clothes because they are simply that icky.

While runners don’t mind, and some possibly even take a special pride in the filth of their clothes, (the dirtier the clothes the tougher the run, right) they are not the only things that get dirty or need a serious bath. Often after a run, you hang up your clothes to dry, make sure there is not a major amount of dirt on your shoes and go on about your day. What about the stuff that you use and don’t really think about washing? What random running items do you have that are harboring germs?


A must on sunny days, rainy days and, really, any day; your running outfit probably isn’t complete without a hat, visor, and bandana or, in the cold months, a beany. There are the few runners that toss their hat in the laundry every time, but not many. It’s probably due to the mindset that all hats are like ball caps and how often do you wash those? Rarely, if ever, is the answer. That shouldn’t be the case for something you have on your head while you sweat profusely.

How often is ideal? With a hat or a visor, part of the determination of how often you should wash it is how much you sweat. If sweat drips off the bill toss it in the washer; it’s durable, it will be fine. Otherwise, every few of runs should be fine to wash it or when you begin to see the salt ring forming. Do make sure you air dry it. Anything that encases your head like a bandanna or beany should be washed every time. On occasion you can get away with flipping a beany inside out, in a pinch.

Running Watch

Ever flipped over your Garmin when it won’t seem to charge and really looked it? If you get good and close, or even not that good and close, you start to see a little funk. There is some gunk on the receptors and wait, is that more gunk in some of the nooks and crannies? What is that grey stuff or is it white? Yep, it’s disturbing and it’s all skin, sweat and dirt. You think because it’s rubber that it can’t pick up anything funky, but those tiny little crevices of your watch band can collect some pretty smelly stuff.

Just flip your watch over once a month and rub the entire band in a damp cotton cloth. Take a Q-tip to get the small spots and receptors. It’s a good idea to also clean the charging cradle. Dipping the Q- tip in water to get it a little damp is ok but make sure to follow any damp cleaning with drying. Cleaning the receptors, if especially gross, can be done by rubbing them with a pencil eraser with no risk for corrosive damage.

Gym Bag

Think about all of the stuff you shove in your gym bag. Sure, you start out with clean clothes in your bag, but that’s not how it ends up. You put your stinky, sweaty post-workout clothes in your bag which may or may not have picked up gym germs from the machines or floor mats. Those clothes sit damp and harboring germs in your gym bag all day. On top of that, most people put their shower shoes in their bag as well. There is a high chance that beyond the gym floor, you walked around the locker room and probably hit a bathroom once or twice in those shoes.

If you are smart, or lucky, you own a cotton machine washable gym back and you can toss that germ harboring, clothes toting bad boy into a washer. However, if you opted to purchase a waterproof or more chic looking gym bag tossing it in the washer probably isn’t going to happen. If the washer doesn’t work for your bag, get out a very damp cloth (assuming the fabric can withstand it) and some mild washing deterrent or a little dish soap and wipe the inside of the bad boy out. You might also want to pay attention to the often neglected handles that you carry it with.

“The Towel”

On occasion, we have to drive to meet our running buddy, for a group run or for a race. Once that run is done, we hop in our car and head home and often in the same clothes we just logged mileage in. A lot of runners have the ‘seat towel’ in their car. The towel (old bath towel or actual microfiber towel made to fit over your seat and headrest for such an occasion, yes it actually exists) lives in your trunk or back seat and only makes it appear for a short time on your drive home. Almost all runners fold that towel back up and toss it back to the place it lives. Keep in mind that towel now is damp, has some serious sweat on it and is going to be living (most likely) in a damp place without any room to dry out. Mold and mildew come to mind? It should. Like most things that live in the trunk, those towels are out of sight and therefore out of mind but still need a little scrubby scrub on occasion.

Once every few uses put your towel in the washer with laundry detergent and the highest temperature water you use in your house. Make sure that no matter what, you let that damp towel dry before you tuck it back away in its home. Hang it up in the garage to air-dry. You can even just lay it in the back seat for a few hours so dampness and darkness don’t combine to create a stench.

Runners are dirty folks, it’s just that running as a hobby can touch so many things in our lives we forget. A little glance around to see what hasn’t been washed, washed out or scrubbed down in a while in a good idea. Just never, ever put your shoes in the washer.