When doing the laundry, we’re all used to separating the whites from the colors and the delicates from the cottons. But did you know that you should also separate your activewear from your everyday clothes? Your workout clothes are undeniably different. You wear them to get sweaty, and they’re the main absorber of all the oil and skin that comes off you when you exercise. Not to mention that most workout clothes are made from technical fabrics — Lycra, microfiber, polyester — and insulated and moisture-wicking fabrics are quite delicate, and react poorly to a normal washing routine.
Washing your workout gear in a regular wash can cause irreversible damage to the fabric, and dramatically reduce the lifespan of the more expensive garments. The good news is that it’s easy to learn how to clean them properly.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
If your workout session leaves you (and your clothes) drenched in sweat, it’s important to put your gear in the wash as soon as you can. Sweaty clothes provide the perfect breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria, and washing them quickly can also prevent stains from setting in. If you don’t have a washing machine handy, you can wash your gear by hand with cold water and a small amount of detergent or soap.
Some brands suggest turning your gear inside-out to get the best wash, as the inside of the fabric is where the most dirt accumulates. However others, suggest leaving your gear the right way out so the logos don’t stick together when washing and drying.
KNOW YOUR DETERGENT
Your everyday detergent might be great at getting the stains out of cotton, but it’s not so good at getting sweat and odor out of the technical fabric of your workout gear.
A common misconception is that more detergent means cleaner clothes. Adding more detergent to your wash actually does the opposite: your washing machine uses only a small amount of detergent, and exceeding the recommended amount causes the remaining detergent to build up on your clothes. This build-up traps odors and stains, and can cause your skin to become irritated when you train.
Using a detergent specifically made for training gear gives them the best clean and prevents the soapy build-up. These products are specially formulated for use with the delicate technical fabrics, and also help maintain the moisture-wicking properties of your gear. If you don’t have any specialty detergent on hand, you can use equal parts baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and detergent for an odor-killing clean.
AVOID FABRIC SOFTENER AND BLEACH
Fabric softener and bleach are both notorious for destroying the stretchy, elastic properties of your training gear. They can also trap smells and contribute to soap build-up. To keep your fabric soft and crisp, add half a cup of white vinegar to your wash instead — vinegar has the added benefit of being a great odor neutralizer as well.
COLD WATER IS KEY
For your workout gear, set your machine on a delicate or hand wash cycle with cold water only. Using hot water can break down the more delicate fabric and lead to shrinkage. Cold water also stops the colors from fading, letting your gear look great till the end of its life.
Try to always air-dry your workout gear by laying them flat on a clothes rack in the shade. Hanging them can stretch them out of shape, while the sun can damage the elastic and Lycra fabric.
If you’re in a rush and need your clothes dry yesterday, you can put them through the dryer, but use only a low heat, tumble dry setting.