A guide to caring for workout gear

The following is a useful and informative guide from Rajen Bagri who works at Laundrapp, a mobile service that washes and delivers laundry directly to your door. Here, they share their expertise on how to care for your workout and exercise gear, including how often you should wash your kit, how to keep it fresh and how to deal with tough stains. Thank you for sharing your tips and advice on how to care for our workout clothing.

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Your workout clothing puts up with a lot: stretching, friction, sweat, and even wet weather and mud. So, even though athletic wear is usually specially designed to be hard-wearing, and many high-end styles often feature antibacterial or quick dry fabrics, your gym clothes still require a bit of TLC to help keep them looking (and smelling) their best.

The correct laundry routine can also help to prolong the lifespan of your gym kit, so whether you work out every day, or just once a week, it’s important that you know how to take care of your clothes. To help you out, I've compiled a guide on how to wash your gym kit, including advice on tackling sweat, stains, and synthetic fabrics. Just read on to learn more.

How often to wash your gym gear

Tight, sweaty clothing can be a breeding ground for nasty bacteria, so if this is left untreated, it can cause fungal and bacterial infections or folliculitis (where the hair follicles become inflamed, leaving a spotty rash on the skin). To prevent this from happening, you'll need to wash your workout gear every time you work up a sweat. While this might seem like a lot of laundry, but it’s better than smelly clothes or a skin infection, and it will keep your clothes in good condition for longer.

If you occasionally do less strenuous workouts, like walking or very gentle yoga, then you might be able to get away with re-wearing your clothes for two sessions, assuming you don’t sweat as much during these forms of exercise.

How to clean your gym clothes effectively

Taking care of your gym kit should begin as soon as you take it off. Simply throwing your sweaty gear into a locker, bag or laundry basket will allow bacteria and mould to breed, resulting in a musty smell even after washing. So, make sure you're either hanging yours up to dry or washing them as soon as you get home.

The exact cycle and wash temperature required will vary from garment to garment, but most items will be fine when washed at 40 degrees: if you're not sure what the symbols on the label mean, then check out this guide from UKFT. For items like sports underwear or those that are skin tight, it’s a good idea to wash them on a hot cycle if possible, as the high temperatures will help to kill any bacteria that are lurking in the fibres of your clothes.

If your gym clothes are suitable for tumble drying, then make sure they’re dried on a low heat, as high temperatures can cause sportswear to shrink and any plastic detailing (like logos, or reflective decoration) to peel off. All other athletic wear should be fine hung out to dry.

Treating sweat stains

Even if properly cared for, our clothes can sometimes become stained by sweat in a way ordinary washing machine cycles won't remove. These stains can be particularly prominent on white and cotton clothing, causing the fabric to stiffen and turn an unsightly yellow.

If you find that your workout gear is still coming out of the washing machine stained or smelling musty, then you should try pre-treating your clothes with white vinegar. Simply leave your clothes to soak in a mixture of one-part vinegar and four parts water for half an hour, and then wash as normal. You could also try spot cleaning stubborn stains with an oxygen-based cleaning product, which will help to remove yellow sweat stains.

As with any cleaning solution, it’s a smart idea to test these solutions on a small, hidden area, to make sure it won't damage the fabric.

Don't forget your footwear

Whatever you do, don’t neglect the most frequently worn item in your sportswear wardrobe: your trainers. These absorb more sweat than perhaps any other item in your gym kit, so make sure your give them a thorough wash at least once a month to keep them looking great and smelling fresh.

If your trainers are reasonably light and robust, you should be able to get good results by popping them in your washing machine. Wash them inside a mesh laundry bag on a delicate setting to prevent the laces from tangling or damaging your machine. You can also wash them by hand using some hot water and a little detergent. Once clean, simply leave your shoes to air dry.

You'll also want to make sure your trainers get a chance to air between uses, so don't just leave them at the bottom of your gym bag between sessions. A quick spray with an odour-neutralising deodorant can help to freshen up your trainers between washes.

Care for specialist fabrics

Expensive performance gear can often come out of the washing machine still dirty or smelly, even after a long wash cycle. This is because many sweat-wicking and stretchy synthetic fabrics are made from smooth, oil treated fibres that effectively repel water. This means these sorts of garments tend to be great at keeping you dry and friction-free during a workout, but it makes them difficult to clean in the washing machine alone.

So, if you find that your performance wear or pricey yoga pants are starting to whiff despite regularly washes, then don’t worry: a few simple household remedies are usually enough to get them back in top condition. To get sweat stains and stubborn smells out of specialist fabrics, pre-treat them using the vinegar mixture described above, and then wash on a cool cycle. You could also try adding some lemon juice to your detergent drawer before washing.

Lastly, remember you should never use fabric softener with synthetic performance wear, as this will coat the fibres, trapping bad smells and preventing them from wicking moisture correctly.

If you work out regularly, then you'll know just how hard it can be to keep your workout clothes clean and fresh. But caring for your sportswear doesn’t have to feel like a chore: just follow these tips and your gym kit will work harder and last longer. 


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