How to Get the Smell Out of Your Running Clothes (& Save them From Eternal Stinkiness)

Are you a runner with a laundry problem?

More specifically, do you have stinky running clothes problems?

Then, you’ve come to the right place.

Today I’m going to share with you the system I use to keep my running clothes smelling (and feeling) fresh for the long haul.

So, if you want to know how to do that, then keep on reading…

Enter the System

Inside this step-by-step guide for laundering technical clothing, you’ll  learn a simple system you can use to remove the stink and dirt from your running clothes.

So, are you excited? Then here we go…

But before I get into that, let’s first take a quick look at fabric science, and why in the hell do workout clothes smell so bad.

The Source of Trouble

Bad smells, be it coming from garbage cans or bad breath, is the by-product of bacteria, in one form or the other.

Generally speaking, a good wash is all that’s needed to remove the bacteria from your casual clothing.

But it’s not always the case when it comes to high performance fabrics.

So, why do running clothes tend to hold onto smells even after being washed?

Blame the Technology

High-performance clothing is such a wonderful invention.

They are made of technical, wicking fabrics designed to absorb and repel moisture, keeping you dry and comfortable while running.

But, there is a dark side to it. In fact, what’s so good about technical fabrics is their chink in the armor when it comes to bad smells.

Why is that?

Most workout attire comes with littles pores that repel water and wick moisture away from the skin.

Nonetheless, once these pores get clogged with sweat, body oils, pollutants, fabric softeners and/or detergents, it becomes almost impossible for the sudsy water in your washing machine to fully penetrate the fibers and get the sweat and bacteria out.

And that’s why your running clothes seem to hold on to odors, even after a thorough wash.

1. Air Them out

Your first line of defense against the smelly odors is to expose your running clothes to natural air as soon as you are done running.

If you keep your clothes in an enclosed space, your clothes will become a breeding ground for bacteria.

In fact, the longer you keep your workout clothes in an enclosed area, the more intense your running clothes may smell.

But it’s not the whole story.

Doing this can also wear down the fabric of your clothes, contributing to a faster deterioration of your running garments.

And I’m assuming that you don’t want that.

Therefore, in case you are not planning on washing your running clothes right away following a workout, make sure to put them where they can air out instead of tossing them on the floor of your bathroom or in your laundry hamper.

For the best results, hang your clothes outside, on a drying rack if it’s available.

If it’s not the case, then the side of a laundry basket can do the trick.

2. Ease up on the Detergent

Most people believe that more detergent is good.

But in reality, it’s worse.


Well, most washing machines have a standard cycle that’s set to handle a set amount of the stuff. Thus, any excess of it does not get washed out. Instead, it ends up lingering on your clothes, causing all sorts of trouble.

This builds up on your clothing, trapping mold and mildew— creating an ideal breeding environment for bacteria.

As a result, to err on the side of caution, opt for half or three-quarters of the amount of detergent you typically use. Then do a sniff test to assess how things are going.

Or at least, wash your running clothes with a detergent that’s specially designed to handle fitness and sports clothing.

Some of the best brands include Tide plus Febreze Freshness Sport, and Win High-Performance Sports Detergent (Get it here on Amazon).

You can also add in an anti-odor in wash eliminator. One effective product to try out is Febreze In-Wash Odor Eliminator. ( Get it here on Amazon).

3. Skip the Fabric Softener

What you need to watch for, when it comes running clothes, is fabric softener.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that fabric softener is your running gear’s worst enemy.

Instead of cleaning the clothes, fabric softeners can, in fact, create a sort of fence that traps rotten smells in. This also keeps detergent and water from penetrating those grooves for a thorough wash.

Not only does it make your running clothes stink, but it also ruins the way they fit. Fabric softeners tend to break down any materials that stretch—the building blocks of technical workout attire.

Henceforth, whether in the form of sheets or liquid, you don’t want to this stuff near your running clothes. Or, at least, go for detergents that are free of dyes or fragrances.

For the odor, try adding half a cup of white vinegar to your wash cycle (for more on how to do that, check tip No. 5).

4. Wash your Clothes ASAP

This might sound redundant, but if your running clothes are drenched in sweat following a workout, then you gotta wash them immediately.

Do not let your workout clothes steep. That’s the Cardinal Rule.

Action Steps

Here are the three guidelines you need for a perfect wash:

(1) Use your hands

In case you don’t have a washing machine nearby, then hand wash them.

In fact, in my experience, this might be the best thing you can do to fight off the smells, be rid of those pesky stains, and prolong the lifespan of your garments.

(2) Flip Them

Before washing your running, make sure to turn them inside out.

Why? Well, doing so helps the detergent get to work on the reeking parts of the threads where most of the gross stuff tends to build up. That’s typically the anterior fibers of the garments.

Also, turning your garments inside-out might safeguard colors.

(3) Wash them Separately

If you want to save your other casual clothing from the smell, then PLEASE wash your regular clothing separately.

In fact, even if you followed the plan I’m sharing with you to the letter, some stubborn smells are there to stay.

So please don’t pass it on to your work or casual clothing.

Also, do not combine two (or more) people’s smelly workout clothes.  Otherwise, neither set would end up smelling fresh.

5. Add Vinegar

A powerful solution I found to be super helpful when it comes keeping my running clothes smelling fresh is to soak them in white vinegar just before washing them.

Actually, this might be the miraculous cure you need for getting rid of the smells altogether.

Here is how to do the vinegar pre-wash tactic:

First, soak your workout clothes in a clean kitchen sink with one part white vinegar and four parts cold water, then let the stuff chill for at least a half an hour. This is going to disinfect and loosen the stains before the wash.

Next, proceed with the washing—whether manually or using a washing machine.

For more, you can also add one cup of white vinegar to your wash during the rinse cycle.

If you are trying to get rid of a huge stink, then feel free to up that to two cups.

6. Hang Them to Dry

Most running clothes is what you may call tech gear. They are made from special fabric that insulates heat, wicks moisture away, you know the drill…

Thus, you should never toss them in the dryer.

In fact, high heat will cause shrinkage or damage to your gear, shortening its lifespan in the process. And you don’t want that.

So, what is the best course of action?

The best way to dry technical fabric is to hang dry them. So please, if you have a drying rack in your bath, then let them dry there.

Or if it’s possible, put your running clothes where they can dry in direct sunlight.

In fact, the sun’s rays naturally deter the growth of bacteria and will zap stains and odors right out of the clothing, keeping them cleaner and smelling fresher for longer.

In case it’s not possible for you to air dry your workout clothes, then put them in the dryer, opting for the lowest heat setting on your dryer possible. This will save the elastic and won’t cause much shrinkage or damage to your clothes.

Still, I’m really against this. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

New to Running? Start Here…

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