Feel like your workout gear isn’t staying fresh? This is how to wash your gym kit correctly

It takes more than just chucking it in the wash…

female athletes in sportswear against blue sky - stock photo
(Image credit: Getty Images / Klaus Vedfelt)

There’s nothing quite like working out in a brand new or freshly washed gym set. We all have our favorite go-to when it comes to the best workout clothes and sports bras, but sometimes once you’ve sweated it out in them, it’s hard to get that stale smell out—no matter how much you wash them. According to the laundry experts, we might be washing our gym kits wrong!

We all know that feeling when you put on that freshly cleaned set thinking everything is fine, and then you hit the treadmill and there’s that smell again. Gym kits are obviously designed for you to sweat in, but sweat smells and really soaks into the fibers of your clothes, that’s why it’s important to clean your sets frequently and thoroughly, and according to Oxwash, it takes more than just throwing them in the washing machine.

While it’s tempting to treat yourself to Lululemon’s Instill tights for your next home workout or hot yoga sesh when your old set loses its shape and is harboring odors, you can still save your trusty leggings and shorts, with these simple tips.

1. Timing is everything

Sadly when it comes to your workout sets, you can’t cut corners. They need a full cycle wash, at 30 or 40 degrees. Our gym clothes have bacteria, dead skins cells, and all sorts of other grime, so it’s important they get a deep, thorough clean.

Laundry expert Jacob Leyland says: “Use a synthetic washing cycle as sports clothes are typically made from mixed fabrics.  A cooler temperature setting of 30℃ or 40℃ will allow enough heat to lift the bad odors and dead skin cells without damaging the fibers. It will also allow the detergent enough contact time before being rinsed away.”

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(Image credit: Getty Images / Cavan Images)

2. Let them breathe

After you've finished stretching, don’t just chuck them in your hamper. Gym clothes need to breathe after you’ve perspired in them as they’ll likely be slightly damp. Hang them up for a while before adding them to your wash—but don’t worry gym clothes are usually designed to be fast drying so you won’t be waiting long.

Plus you don’t want them contaminating the rest of your laundry!

3. Turn them inside out

A no-brainer really, your sweat meets the inside of your gym clothes, so washing them inside out means the detergent and water get straight to the problem areas. This also protects your clothes from damage, pilling, and bobbles as they will appear on the inside rather than outside—this applies to all your clothes!

4. Less is more

While you may think adding more detergent will help tackle smells, it can actually make your clothes static and clingy, meaning they stick your body even more which sort of exasperates the whole sweat issue. 

Leyland adds: “It may seem counter-intuitive, but your clothing will get just as clean with half the manufacturer’s recommended amount. Plus, think about how much further a standard bottle of detergent will last, saving you money.”

female body builder against white background - stock photo

(Image credit: Getty Images / The Good Brigade)

5. Ditch the conditioner 

Fabric softener and workout clothes are a no-no. 

Softener/conditioner leaves residue on the fibers of the clothes, this leaves things like jumpers and tops nice and soft, but is the worst thing you can do for your gym sets. It creates a barrier that traps the moisture in the fabric, so it cannot evaporate, which encourages odors to form.

6. Keep the temperature down

This is not only good for the fabrics of your clothes but for the planet! As most activewear is made from sweat licking, synthetic material, hot temperatures will damage the fabric and make the elasticity less flexible—this is why your fits can lose their shape.

While these may seem like a faff, in practice they’re very simple and will save you a lot of money and weird smells. But if you really can’t be bothered you can always send them to professionals, like Oxwash, to clean!

Naomi Jamieson
Lifestyle News Writer

Naomi is a Lifestyle News Writer with the Women's Lifestyle team, where she covers everything from entertainment to fashion and beauty, as well as TikTok trends for Woman&Home, after previously writing for My Imperfect Life and GoodTo. Interestingly though, Naomi actually has a background in design, having studied illustration at Plymouth University but lept into the media world in 2020, after always having a passion for writing and earned her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ.

Before working for Future Publishing’s Lifestyle News team, she worked in the Ad production team. Here she wrote and designed adverts on all sorts of things, which then went into print magazines across all genres. Now, when she isn’t writing articles on celebs, fashion trends, or the newest shows on Netflix, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping.