Keep it sweet at the gym with these clothes cleaning tips


Let’s face it: after a great game or a run, your gear is probably as sweaty as you; try these top tips to keep you from smelling terrible

Kelly Ho |

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Keep these handy tips in mind next time you need to clean your clothes.

When you get home after going for an long run, gym session, or a ball game with your friends, sometimes all you want to do is to have a shower and collapse into bed. But hang on a minute – aren’t you forgetting something really important?

While you may be fresh and clean after your shower, your smelly workout clothes are still stuffed into your gym bag, or perhaps they’re left sitting for days in a laundry basket.

While exercise is important, cleaning your workout gear shouldn't be forgotten.
Photo: Shutterstock

You’ve probably neglected your shoes, too, which may also be dirty and rather stinky.

If you don’t clean your workout gear properly, odour and bacteria will gradually build up. And if you keep wearing these unwashed clothes and shoes, you may start to turn heads as you walk into a room, for all the wrong reasons. To prevent that from happening, here are some handy tips on how to get the stink out of your workout gear.

Air your clothes

Before leaving the gym, it’s a good idea to hang up your sweat-soaked clothes and let them dry before putting them into your bag. Understandably, you may only be able to do this if you’re in a well-ventilated area, and if you have a bit of extra time, but drying your gear this way reduces any unpleasant smell and helps prevent bad odours from intensifying in a zipped up bag.

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Add a touch of vinegar

It goes without saying that you should wash your clothes as soon as you get home. But before putting them in the washing machine, you can get rid of some of that stink by soaking them in a solution of one part white vinegar and four parts water. For a deep clean, soak your sports gear in this solution for about 30 minutes. The acid in vinegar is a natural deodoriser and also a mild disinfectant, so you get a double benefit.

Turn your clothes inside out

Before throwing your dirty clothes in the washing machine and hoping that it will do its magic, flip your gear inside out because most of your sweat and body oils are trapped on the inside of your clothes.

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Use the right amount of detergent

Some people think the more detergent you use, the cleaner your clothes will be, but that’s not how it works. There is a reason your detergent label includes a recommended dose for a variety of washing machines and washes, so for a really good clean, you need to follow these instructions. If you use too much washing powder or liquid, your machine may not rinse it off completely, meaning some of the smell could be trapped in your clothes.

No fabric softener

Your workout clothes are mostly made of polyester and other synthetic fabrics that stretch, making them comfortable to wear while you exercise. Take a look at the washing label on your shirt and you will find a big cross on the symbol that represents softener. Or the label may simply state in capital letters “DO NOT USE SOFTENERS”. This is because fabric softeners may leave a waxy coating, which traps odours within the fibres of your workout gear.

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Avoid heat

After you’ve washed your gym wear, how you dry it is important. Try to hang items up where they can air dry, rather than putting them in a hot dryer. If you must use the dryer, keep it on low heat, as high temperatures are not good for elastic or stretchy clothing, and could actually make the smell stronger.

Keep shoes dry and clean

Although most of us know our workout clothes need to be washed, our gym shoes often get forgotten. The most important thing is to let your shoes dry completely before putting them back in the cupboard. Damp shoes, together with Hong Kong’s humidity, provide the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which can cause bromodosis – the medical term for smelly feet.

There are other handy products that you might like to try to help keep your shoes smelling sweet. Try putting some bamboo charcoal dehumidifier in your shoes, or another natural deodoriser, like tea bags, to help absorb shoe odours.

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You also need to wash your shoes regularly.

Nike, one of the biggest sports shoes brands in the world, recommends handwashing your gym shoes using a mild solution of warm water and laundry detergent.

They suggest washing only the soles and laces of your sports shoes in this solution, and cleaning the rest of the shoes with a brush and damp cloth.

When you’ve given them some love and care, the next step is to air dry your shoes at room temperature. Nike recommends avoiding putting your shoes in a washing machine or dryer, or using harsh cleaning products like bleach, as this can weaken the fabric.

Edited by Ingrid Piper