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The Athlete's Guide to Odor Removal

How to Remove Odors from the Gym, Sports, and Sweat

For any athlete, preparation is the key to performance. Being physically and mentally ready, having the right footwear and the right clothing are all essential. So you’ve got all those things in order, get your athletic gear on and then… there’s a musty smell on your clothes, even though you just washed them and they look clean. It’s going to be hard to ignore that smell while you’re working out or competing, and what if someone else smells it? Believe it or not, this is a common problem.

Unfortunately, most of the things that cause bad odors on clothes are not visible to the naked eye and are not always removed by your usual detergents. They might smell fine when you get them out of the machine but after a short time in a drawer or shortly after you put them on again the smell comes back.

So what are the solutions to this common problem? Well, fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do, so we have compiled a list of tips on how to get the smell out of workout clothes.

Take Your Workout Clothes Off As Soon As Possible

This may seem obvious, but the longer your workout clothes stay on, the more sweat and smell will soak into them. So, if possible, it’s best to take them off as soon as you’re done with your workout or sports activity. Of course, you’re going to be tired, but you should still resist the urge to just throw your clothes into the laundry basket. This can allow odors to transfer to other clothes and it’s also easy to forget you put them there. Bacteria can form on clothes the longer they are buried in your hamper and as they grow, they produce more odors that will be even harder to eliminate.

Allow Your Gym Clothes to Air Dry Before Washing Them

If you’re lucky enough that it’s sunny and dry outside, hang your sweat-soaked clothes outside before washing them. The UV rays in sunshine are as bad for bacteria as they can be for your skin and will kill those nasty odor-producing bacteria. If the weather isn’t so good, or you don’t have a convenient place to hang clothes outside, hang them on a towel rack or lay them out somewhere they will dry naturally. Drying your athletic clothes in one of these ways will help to reduce any smells that may soak into the fabric.

Wash Your Sweaty Clothes As Soon As Possible After Exercise

As we said earlier, resist that urge to just throw your sweaty workout clothes in the washing hamper. The longer you wait to wash your clothes the more chances odors have to penetrate the fabric. If possible, put your gym clothes in the washing machine as soon as you return from a workout and have made sure the sweat has dried out.

Bag and Freeze Your Workout Clothes If You Can't Wash Them Right Away

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to dry out and wash your gym clothes as soon as you get home. Work, life and family are bound to get in the way on occasion, and someone else may be using the washing machine. If that’s the case, you can avoid odors getting worse by putting your clothes into a sealed bag and then into the freezer. The cold of the freezer will stop bacteria growth immediately, preventing your clothes from getting any smellier.

Flip Your Sweat-Soaked Clothes Inside Out Before Washing

When you work out, the part of your clothes that soaks up most sweat and body oils is the inside, where they make contact with your skin. If you turn them inside out before washing, the detergent gets into the dirtiest surfaces more effectively, helping to prevent lingering odors.

Don't Use Too Much Laundry Detergent

If a little bit of detergent is good, a lot must be better, right? Wrong! When you put too much detergent in, it won’t rinse away effectively, leaving a residue on your clothes that traps bacteria and the bad smells they produce. Then, when you wear the clothes again, the detergent rubs off, exposing the smells again. If you get the amount of detergent right, it ensures a deep clean and a perfect rinse for your sweat-soaked workout clothes.

Don't Use Fabric Softener

Fabric softeners are sold on the premise that they make your clothes smell better. This works fine for clothes that don’t get very sweaty or dirty, but on sweaty workout clothes, it seals up the fabric fibers and prevents water and detergent from deeply penetrating and washing out sweat and body oils.

Buy a Laundry Booster

While fabric softeners may not work for getting odor out of athletic clothes, laundry boosters are another matter. Laundry boosters are designed to combat the toughest odors in well-used clothes like your workout clothes. They do this by neutralizing odor molecules without adding a fragrance of their own rather than simply covering up odors. They’re versatile too — for example, Fresh Wave’s Odor Removing Laundry Booster can also be used on carpets, walls, kitchen counters or any other surface that requires deodorizing.

Add a DIY Odor Eliminating Household Item

You don’t have to look far to find something that will help get a smell out of workout clothes; many useful items can be found in your kitchen cupboard that you can use to pre-soak or wash your clothes. These include:

  • Vinegar. This versatile condiment is great for pre-soaking your stinky athletic clothes. Simply mix one part vinegar with four parts water and soak your clothes for between 30 and 40 minutes before washing. This will break down bacteria and oils, making it easier for the detergent to do its work.
  • Fresh lemon juice. You can use this in a similar way to vinegar. The citric acid breaks down oils and bacteria and adds a wonderful citrus smell.
  • Baking soda is excellent for absorbing odors. Sprinkle it over your sweaty clothes and rinse off before putting them in the wash.

Avoid Mixing Heavy Materials with Your Smelly Clothes

It’s best to not put other clothes in with your athletic clothes when washing but if you need to, avoid heavy fabrics. They produce a lot of lint which can stick to your sweaty gym clothes, preventing water and detergent from penetrating and reducing the effectiveness of the wash.

Use Hot Water to Wash Your Workout Clothes

As we mentioned earlier, bacteria accumulates on your sweaty workout clothes, creating more odors. Fortunately, hot water kills bacteria much more effectively than cold washing. However, hot water is best used when washing sweaty clothes that have been lying around when bacteria have already built up. If washing your athletic clothes immediately after use, it’s best to use cold water as heat may amplify the smells.

Skip Tossing Workout Clothes in the Dryer

Most performance fabrics used in athletic clothes are not suitable for the dryer. In addition, heat may bring residual smells back. Air drying is far preferable, outdoors if possible, as this will provide ideal airflow and moisture evaporation and UV rays from the sun kill bacteria.

Use an Odor Eliminating Spray After Your Clothes are Washed and Dry

For an extra step to ultimate fresh-smelling workout clothes, Fresh Wave has the answer. Our odor-eliminating sprayempty neutralizes odor molecules, removing the unpleasant odors rather than simply masking them. Even on clothes you’ve used a lot, you will have a fresh smell, even when you haven’t been able to remove all the smelliness after prior washes.