Sometimes it’s hard to remember what everyone even wore before it became socially acceptable to run around in activewear 24/7. (Jeans to grab Saturday coffee? Sounds restricting.) The beauty of stretchy pants and sports bras is a no brainer—but cleaning them is another story.
There’s a new buzzword making the rounds in the fitness community, and it’s called the “rebloom” effect, according to P&G. It refers to recently washed workout clothes that start smelling bad again shortly after you put them on. (If you’ve gotten a musty whiff of yourself after just a short walk to the spin studio, you know what we’re talking about.) It ain’t cute.
Moisture-wicking performance fabrics, which do an amazing job of sending wetness to the surface of the fabric to keep you cool and dry, tend to have extra nooks and crannies that cling to dirt and odors, says laundry expert Mary Marlowe Leverette, who works as a consultant to detergent manufacturers, consumer textile distributors, and appliance developers.
Laundry detergent has a hard time penetrating those grooves, and can even trap the bad stuff in. And since performance fabrics dry super fast, you might even forget just how sweaty your clothes got. So instead of throwing them in the wash, you watch six episodes of Orange Is the New Black, and then head out to grab a smoothie. It’s a stinking time bomb.
Want to make sure your (sometimes absurdly expensive) sweat threads stay fresh?
1. Air your clothes out before tossing them in the hamper.
Rolling super-sweaty workout clothes into a tight ball and sending them to the bottom of your hamper might help with your laundry anxiety, but those clothes will become a breeding ground for bacteria—and all those nasty odours will stay right where you left them, says Leverette. If you’re not doing laundry right away, layout sweaty clothes so they can breathe in the fresh air.
2. Try freezing them for a quick stink fix.
Can’t lay them out around your apartment before washing? Toss your workout clothes in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer until you can wash them. The cold air prevents bacteria from growing and nixes odour until you can do laundry.
3. Go easy on the detergent.
Whether you’re using a special sports detergent or plain old Tide, don’t add extra suds to your washing machine with hopes that they’ll work overtime on sweat smells. (You’re asking for extra soap scum on your clothes, which can cause a buildup of mould and mildew—it’s actually a food source for bacteria, says Leverette.)
Two teaspoons of high performing brands like Tide, Wisk, and Persil is usually more than plenty per load of laundry, says Leverette. Or, try half or three-quarters of the amount of detergent that you normally use and perform a sniff test to hit the sweet spot.
4. Skip the fabric softener.
Liquid or sheets, you don’t want this stuff near your workout gear. Fabric softeners can clog the fibres of performance fabrics, keeping water and detergent from getting into those grooves for a deep clean, and messing with moisture-wicking and odour-fighting properties.
5. Wash your clothes inside out.
Flipping clothes—especially leggings—inside out helps detergent get to work on the smelliest parts of your threads (the areas that were in direct contact with your skin). It’s a great move to eliminate underarm odour too. Plus, this will help protect the colour in your favourite neon yellow top, too.
6. Don’t wash them with heavy fabrics.
Items like fleece pullovers, sweatshirts, and towels can transfer their lint to stretchy workout fabrics, which makes it harder for detergent and water to get through.
7. Toss ‘em with vinegar.
To deep clean any odours that just won’t quit, try soaking clothes in one part white distilled vinegar and four parts cold water for 30 minutes. Another solution for stripping clothes of old odours is to mix a solution of oxygen bleach (like Oxi Clean) with cool water, and let the clothes soak overnight, says Leverette.
8. Add baking soda to your laundry load.
Another option? Add a cup of baking soda to your laundry during the rinse cycle to neutralise bad odours for good.
9. Pour in lemon juice for added freshness.
Sounds weird, but the citric acid in lemon juice can break down oils from your body in the clothes, which can help destroy odour. Plus, the lemony smell is a great way to get a boost of freshness without fragrance-heavy detergent.
10. Soak clothes in buttermilk to get rid of mildew.
If you left your clothes in a plastic bag at the bottom of your gym bag for a few days (guilty!), you can get rid of that mildew-y smell by pre-soaking your clothes in buttermilk overnight before washing them.
11. Let your clothes hang dry.
Machine-drying your performance fabrics is typically a no-no anyway since it can wear down the fabric, but letting your clothes air-dry is another way to increase freshness. Sometimes, machines don’t get clothes all the way dry, and then they sit in a hot, moist pile waiting for you to take them out of the dryer. Not exactly the best move for freshness. Letting them hang-dry ensures they get constant air flow as moisture evaporates.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.
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