Banish the Stink: How to Keep Your Running Clothes Smelling Fresh

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Beginner RunnerRunning Gear & Apparel
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David Dack

Tired of your running gear smelling like a locker room after a few intense runs?

We’ve all been there.

After a few intense runs, those shirts, shorts, and socks can start to rival any gym bag in terms of odor. But fear not, I’m here to unravel the mystery of banishing those stubborn smells. If you’re a runner battling the stink, you’re in the right place.

In this post, we’re diving deep into the world of stinky running gear and uncovering the secrets to make them smell fresh as a daisy.

But before we get to the nitty-gritty, let’s chat about why your running clothes can turn into scent factories.

The Source of The Stink

Bad smells, whether it’s your kitchen trash or morning breath, usually have a common culprit lurking in the shadows: bacteria. Now, for your everyday, run-of-the-mill clothes, a good old-fashioned wash is usually enough to bid those bacteria farewell.

But wait, here’s where it gets interesting – when it comes to high-performance fabrics, it’s a whole different ball game. These technical wonders are engineered to keep you cool and dry, thanks to their fancy synthetic materials. Think of them as sweat-wicking superheroes.

But there’s a catch. These high-performance fabrics have some nooks and crannies where bacteria can hide, even after a thorough wash.

So, while your trusty detergent might work wonders on your everyday jeans, it can struggle to reach those sneaky microbes in your running gear. That’s why your favorite workout clothes can sometimes resemble odor magnets, refusing to let go of those funky smells.

Blame the Technology

You see, the root of the stink problem lies in the bacteria hitchhiking on your skin, cozying up in your fabric fibers. Sounds like a job for a washing machine, right? Well, that’s where things go a bit wonky.

Those high-performance running clothes, the ones that make you feel like a superhero on the track? They’re often made from advanced, stretchy materials – picture smooth synthetic fibers that resemble fishing lines. These materials are designed to whisk moisture away, keeping you cool and dry, which is fantastic for your runs.

But here’s the catch – these high-tech fabrics, while excellent at moisture management, can have sneaky nooks and crannies where dirt and odors love to camp out. So, when you toss them in the washing machine, the typical cycle might struggle to dive deep into those tiny grooves.

And that’s how your synthetic super-clothes can sometimes transform into odor magnets, holding onto those funky smells like a champ.

Don’t Hesitate to Wash

Leaving your running gear in a sweaty pile or stuffed into a hamper after a run is basically like rolling out the red carpet for bacteria. They love dark, damp environments, and the longer your gear stays in that state, the more they party and make a stink.

So here’s the golden rule: as soon as you walk through the door after a run, shed your gear like it’s on fire (or at least take it out of your gym bag) and let it air out. If you’re not planning to do laundry immediately, give those clothes some room to breathe – hang them up or lay them out on a drying rack. Fresh air is their best friend, and it’s your secret weapon against the impending odor invasion.

Air Them out

Your secret weapon in the battle against smelly workout clothes? Fresh air. As soon as you finish your run, make a beeline for exposing those sweaty garments to the great outdoors.

Why, you ask? Well, if you trap your clothes in an enclosed space, it’s like throwing a bacteria party with your gear on the dance floor. Those nasty microbes thrive in dark, damp environments, and the longer you leave your workout clothes in lockdown, the worse the smell gets.

But that’s not the whole story. Besides being bacteria’s best hangout spot, an enclosed space can also do a number on your fabric. It speeds up the deterioration process, meaning your running gear will wear out faster than your running shoes on a sprint. And who wants that?

So, if you’re not planning to do a load of laundry right after your workout, give those clothes some room to breathe. Don’t just toss them on your bathroom floor or into your laundry hamper.

Hang them outside if you can, or if you’re indoors, a drying rack or even the side of a laundry basket will do the trick. Your nose and your running gear will thank you.

Ease up on the Detergent

Ah, the detergent dilemma. Most folks think that dumping in extra detergent is the key to cleaner clothes, but guess what? It’s actually a recipe for trouble.

You see, washing machines are built with a standard cycle that’s designed to handle a specific amount of detergent. When you go overboard with the soap, it doesn’t magically wash your clothes better. Instead, the excess detergent sticks around like an unwelcome guest at a party, causing all sorts of issues.

This detergent buildup on your clothing becomes a cozy home for mold and mildew, creating the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. So, what’s the solution? Ease up on the detergent. Instead of the usual amount, try using just half or three-quarters and give your clothes a good old sniff test to check if they’re coming out clean and fresh.

Or better yet, look for a detergent specially designed for fitness and sports clothing. Brands like Tide plus Febreze Freshness Sport or Win High-Performance Sports Detergent are excellent choices. And if you’re still battling stubborn odors, toss in an anti-odor in-wash eliminator like Febreze In-Wash Odor Eliminator for that extra freshness boost.

Skip the Fabric Softener

You see, fabric softeners have a sneaky way of creating a barrier that locks in those unpleasant smells, turning your workout gear into a smelly prison. It’s like they’re saying, “No freshness allowed!” Not only that, but they also obstruct the detergent and water from reaching those nooks and crannies where bacteria love to hide.

And here’s the kicker: fabric softeners have a knack for wreaking havoc on the stretchy materials that make up your technical workout attire. So, not only will your clothes stink, but they’ll also lose their shape and fit.

So, do yourself and your running clothes a favor – steer clear of fabric softeners, whether they come in sheets or liquid form. Opt for detergents that are free of dyes or fragrances instead.

And if you’re battling persistent odors, consider adding half a cup of white vinegar to your wash cycle (check tip No. 5 for more on that).

Pre-Soak Your Running Gear

Before you toss your running clothes into the wash, take a moment to give them a refreshing pre-soak. All you need is four parts cold water and one part white distilled vinegar. Mix them up, and let your clothes bask in this magical solution for about 30 minutes.

Now, why white vinegar, you ask? Well, it has a secret weapon – a low level of acid that’s fantastic at cutting through those stubborn bacteria. While your clothes soak, it works its magic, releasing the odor’s grip on your gear. So when you finally toss them in the wash, those persistent odors are ready to be flushed away, leaving your running clothes smelling clean and fresh.

Wash your Clothes ASAP

When it comes to washing your post-workout, sweat-drenched running clothes, there’s one cardinal rule you should never break: wash them ASAP!

Don’t let your workout clothes steep and marinate in that sweaty concoction; it’s a recipe for stubborn odors. So, as soon as you’re done with your exercise, make a beeline for the laundry room or your washing machine.

Now, here are three golden guidelines for achieving that perfect wash:

(1) Use your hands

If you don’t have a washing machine nearby, don’t fret. Handwashing is your secret weapon. In fact, it might just be the best thing you can do to battle those lingering smells, bid farewell to pesky stains, and extend the lifespan of your cherished workout garments.

(2) Flip Them

When washing your running gear, especially those trusty leggings, flip them inside out. This ingenious move gives your detergent direct access to the smelliest and dirtiest parts of the fabrics. Those areas are where bacteria love to hang out. Plus, it helps protect the exterior of your gear from pilling and wear and tear.

(3) Wash them Separately

If you’re looking to keep your other casual clothing smelling fresh, remember to wash your regular clothes separately. Even if you’ve followed every tip in the book, some odors can be incredibly stubborn. So, avoid passing them on to your work attire or favorite jeans.

Also, resist the urge to mix multiple people’s smelly workout clothes; that won’t end well for anyone involved.

Use the Right Amount of Laundry Detergent

Let’s talk about the magic of laundry detergent, shall we?

But here’s a secret: more isn’t always better.

Using an excess of detergent in the hope that it’ll work miracles might just backfire on you in the laundry room.

You see that excess detergent doesn’t magically disappear; it clings to your workout gear like a clingy friend, forming a rather unpleasant alliance with dead skin cells and potentially fostering some unwanted fungus. Not exactly the laundry day outcome you’re aiming for, right?

So whether you’re a loyal fan of good ol’ Tide or you prefer specialized sports detergents like Nathan’s Sports Wash, here’s a nugget of wisdom: it’s crucial to use the right amount of detergent in your washing machine.

So, how much should you use? Well, I’d recommend sticking to no more than two teaspoons of high-performing brands like Persil, Wish, or Tide for a full load. Trust me, it’s often more than enough to get your laundry smelling fresh and clean.

Now, if you want to go that extra mile in the battle against lingering odors, here’s a neat trick: during the rinse cycle, add half a cup of baking soda to your laundry. This humble kitchen staple works wonders in helping banish those stubborn smells for good.

Additional resource – How to clean running shoes

Add Vinegar

Let’s talk about a laundry hack that’s practically a superhero when it comes to keeping your running clothes smelling as fresh as a field of daisies!

Enter white vinegar, the magical elixir that can work wonders in banishing those stubborn odors from your workout gear. Trust me; this might just be the miraculous cure you’ve been searching for.

So, here’s the secret recipe for this laundry superhero: the vinegar pre-wash tactic!

Step 1:

Find a clean kitchen sink (because cleanliness is key when battling odors), and prepare a solution. Mix one part white vinegar with four parts cold water.

Now, toss your sweaty workout clothes into this concoction and let them chill for at least half an hour. This nifty trick not only disinfects your clothes but also loosens those stubborn stains before the wash.

Step 2:

After the pre-soak party, it’s time to proceed with the main event—the washing! You can choose to do this either manually or by using a trusty washing machine. Your clothes will be primed and ready for battle against those persistent odors.

For an extra odor-fighting punch, consider adding one cup of white vinegar to your wash during the rinse cycle. And if you’re dealing with a truly epic stink, don’t hesitate to up the ante by using two cups.

6. Hang Them to Dry

Most running clothes are like little tech wonders, engineered from special fabrics that insulate heat and wick away moisture. They’ve got all the bells and whistles, and you’ve come to love the performance they offer. But, and it’s a big “but,” you should never just toss them in the dryer.

Why, you ask? Well, high heat can spell disaster for your beloved gear, causing shrinkage or damage that shortens its lifespan. And let’s be honest, we want our running clothes to last as long as possible, right?

So, what’s the smart move here? The best way to dry technical fabric is to let it air dry. If you’re lucky enough to have a drying rack in your bathroom, that’s the perfect spot to hang them. If not, look for a sunny spot where your clothes can bask in the sunlight.

Here’s a fun tidbit: The sun’s rays are like nature’s little laundry assistants. They naturally discourage the growth of bacteria and work like magic to zap stains and odors right out of your clothing, keeping them cleaner and fresher for longer.

But I get it; sometimes, life throws a curveball, and you need your gear ready ASAP. In those desperate times, you might consider using the dryer. If you do, opt for the lowest heat setting available. It’s a compromise that will save the elastic and minimize shrinkage or damage to your clothes.

Additional Resource – Here’s how to dry running shoes.

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