washing your workout gear

Modern technical fibers can be more delicate than work out kit of old.  There are some general rules you should follow when washing them if you hope to preserve them. If you’ve ever washed your workout clothes only to find that they still stink after the fact, you’ve probably already come to this conclusion. Not only can washing them the wrong way mean they don’t get clean, but it can also degrade the fibers and shorten the life span of some very expensive exercise ensembles.

Here are the do’s and don’ts of washing your workout gear:

  • Read the label
    Performance fabrics often require special care beyond these do’s and don’ts. Always check the label to ensure you’re maintaining the integrity of the performance fibers and any special attributes, like UPF, anti-odor or compression.
  • Don’t use fabric softener
    Fabric softener can often be blamed for keeping workout clothes from getting totally clean when they are in the wash cycle. Since it tends to coat these types of fibers, fabric softener prevents them from being able to absorb the water when being washed.
  • Consider your detergent
    In the same way that fabric softener can keep water in the wash cycle from penetrating fabrics, so can detergent. Use slightly less than you would for your regular clothes, and this should limit the viscosity enough to do the job.  There are a number of special detergents on the market formulated for washing workout clothes. If you find your duds are particularly stinky, this is a good thing to try.
  • Don’t let your gear sit around
    Mold and mildew can begin to grow on workout gear that is left in a gym bag or laundry basket. Be sure to get those items in the washing machine sooner rather than later to prevent the buildup of nasty stenches.
  • Soak it overnight
    By soaking the worst-smelling garments in one part white vinegar to four parts water, you can often kill anything that’s particularly pesky when it comes to odors. Throw them in a bucket or sink for a half hour prior to washing.
  • Use cold water
    Since technical fibers are generally on the delicate side, in most cases it’s best to use cold water to wash them. This will help maintain any special performance properties for many workouts to come.
  • Air dry
    Consider line-drying outside. These approaches prevent you from drying out spandex, Lycra and other similar fibers.  If you must use one then ensure the tumble-dryer is set to low.
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