How to keep your workout gear from stinking

Ever notice that after a while, your workout gear smells, well, a little funky? How can you keep your workout gear from stinking?

A friend at the gym told me she throws out all of her Lululemon gear after a year or so ands buy all new pieces, because her old gear smells bad, even after washing. That’s an expensive way to keep fresh!

Technical or performance fabric has become the material of choice for athletic apparel, found everywhere from Lululemon Luon to Nike Dri-FIT to Under Armour heatgear. The polyester microfibre fabric helps you stay dry and regulates body temperature so you can work out longer, because it wicks moisture away rather than absorbing it like your older cotton garments.

shirts on clotheslineWhere the smell comes from. Microfibres in technical fabric trap surfactant residue from regular laundry detergent and fabric softener, providing an environment where bacteria can grow and cause stinky odour. In his article in the Running Free Member Guide (Winter 10-11), Nick Capra, Running Free Apparel Buyer says that your active wear can become stinky because “the garment has been washed repeatedly using a detergent (or fabric softener) containing clogging surfactants. Bacteria get caught up in the residue they leave behind, and when warmed by your body, activate the stinky dead organic matter present in your clothes. Yuk!”

How to keep your gear stink-free:

1. Use a residue-free laundry detergent. Here are 2 to try:

SportSuds 400 g powder – A Canadian product, this powder removes bacteria and odour, and rinses out completely, leaving no residue behind. The manufacturer states that it is fully biodegradable, hypoallergenic. You can buy it online or find retailers here. As a mom in an active family with two older teenagers, I can vouch for this one – it works really well to remove sweat and odour from any tech fabric garments, even those that have been on an Outward Bound trip for 3 weeks…Cost: $18.99 but you only use 1 TBSP per load.

No Sweat liquid, 500 mL– The “anti-stink enforcer”, No Sweat claims to be the first ever detergent to help prevent dreaded yellow pit-stains on white shirts. It is sold as unscented or in a “citrus rush” scent and is the only EcoLogo-certified sport wash. Cost: $11.99 for 500 mL or you can purchase larger quantities. Sold online or find retailers here.

2. Never use a fabric softener to avoid coating fabric with oily surfactants.

3. Wash your workout clothes separately. If you need a further incentive to do more loads, note that you will end up with pill-balls on your Lululemon luon pants if you wash them together with a cotton garment.

4. Always hang to dry – polyester microfibre fabric dries quickly, so save hydro and your clothes by skipping the dryer.

5. For extra odour protection, look for fabrics with an antimicrobial finish or silver fibres.

With proper care, you can keep your active wear smelling fresh and lasting a lot longer. Shouldn’t your workout gear be able to work as hard as you do?


, , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to How to keep your workout gear from stinking

  1. Virginia Heffernan May 25, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    Thanks, Jane…..I’ve been looking for this info.

    • Jane May 26, 2011 at 6:37 am #

      Thanks for your comment, Virginia. Let me know if this works for your family too. Since writing this post, I notice that there is a new President’s Choice detergent called MAX Sport, but I’m reluctant to try it. It contains eucalyptus oil “for maximum odour-fighting protection” , claiming to be “perfect for washing activewear and sports gear”, but I wonder if it would rinse out or leave residue. Besides, who wants to smell like vapo-rub or a sore throat lozenge?

Share This