Working up a sweat at the gym inevitably leads to some stench lingering in athletic apparel. No one wants to be that person emanating nasty odors. So how can you prevent exercise clothing from becoming totally rank? With the right habits and laundry products, it is possible to keep fitness gear fresh. Read on to banish unpleasant workout clothing odors for good.

Causes of Gym Clothes Stinking

First, let’s examine the root causes of smelly exercise garments:

Sweat Accumulation

As sweat evaporates off the body, residues get left behind on fabric fibers resulting in bacterial buildup and stench over time.

Bacteria and Mold

Microbes thrive in the warm, moist environment inside sweat-soaked gym clothes, breaking down organic compounds into smelly substances.

Synthetic Fabric Odors

Certain synthetics like spandex have an intrinsic odor to them that becomes more prominent when combining with sweat.

Deodorant and Fragrance Residues

Perfumes, lotions, and antiperspirants can turn unpleasant when built up on clothes and reacting with body chemistry.

Dirt and Grime

Accumulated soils and dead skin cells also contribute to odors, especially on high contact sports uniforms and gear.

Body soils, microbes, and synthetic odors create a potent smell cocktail.

Post-Workout Care to Minimize Odors

Implementing a smart post-gym routine will help reduce odors:

Change Immediately

Remove sweaty gear right away rather than prolonging contact of fabrics against skin.

Use Antibacterial Wipes

Quick wipe downs with antibacterial wipes helps curb microbe growth in clothes after workouts.

Avoid Overstuffing Bags

Allow dirty items to air out rather than sealing them in gym bags while still moist.

Wash After Every Wear

Clean gym clothes after one wear, even if just for a short workout. Air dry between washes.

Pretreat Stains

Spot treat visible stains like sweat marks before washing to avoid smells setting in fabric.

Dry Thoroughly

If hand washing activewear, ensure 100% dryness since any moisture breed odor causing bacteria.

Establish immediate cleaning routines before smells set in.

Activewear Laundry Products That Prevent Odors

Use these specialized laundry products for fitness fabrics:

Sport Detergent

Formulations like Tide Plus Febreze Sport contain extra enzymes and deodorizers tailored for athletic wear.

Odor Fighting Additives

Add borax, baking soda, white vinegar or oxygen-based laundry boosters to help actively curb smells.

Antimicrobial Fabric Wash

Products containing silver ions or activated charcoal help inhibit bacterial growth during washing.

Maximum Strength Detergent

For seriously smelly gear, upgrade to industrial detergents used by gyms and sports laundries.

Disinfectant Bleach Alternative

If bleach cannot be used, oxygen bleach crystals provide sanitizing cleaning without fading colors.

Fabric Softener

Skip typical fabric softeners which leave residues that trap odors over time. Use natural vinegar in the rinse instead for softness.

Choose high performance detergents to keep athletic fabrics odor-free.

Gym Clothes Washing Machine Tips

Proper laundry equipment settings also make a difference:

Hot Water Wash

Choose the highest temperature safe for the fabrics. Heat helps eliminate odors and microbes.

Extra Rinse Cycle

An added rinse ensures all detergent residue gets fully removed so it cannot trap smells.

Max Spin Speed

High speed spins extracts more trapped moisture that breeds mildew and bacteria leading to stink.

Dry Promptly

Either machine dry on low or hang dry workout wear right after washing. Lingering dampness causes odor.

Vinegar Rinse

Add 1⁄2 cup white vinegar in the rinse cycle as a natural bacteria killing fabric softener.

Clean Washer Monthly

Disinfect washing machines regularly to avoid growth of mildew and mold internally.

Optimized laundry machines keep clothes fresh.

Drying Tips to Prevent Activewear Odors

Proper drying also prevents the return of unpleasant smells:

Low Heat

Use the lowest heat setting safe for the fabrics. High heat degrades technical fabrics and retains odors.

Natural Drying

For ultimate odor removal, natural air drying in sunlight provides added antibacterial effects.

Dryer Balls

Add wool dryer balls which naturally absorb odors and aerate clothes for fresher results.

No Fabric Softener Sheets

Skip dryer sheets which leave a coating that traps smells over time.

Reduce Static

Cut down on static cling which binds stinky particles to clothes by adding natural vinegar as a rinse or dryer bounce sheet alternative.

Check Gaskets and Vent

Clean dryer gaskets and ducts to avoid foul smells of mildew accumulation internally.

The dryer offers additional opportunity to prevent smelly workout wear.

Activewear Fabric-Specific Odor handling

Certain performance fabrics require specialized treatment:

Spandex and Nylon

Avoid overly high heat which degrades the fibers and retains odors. Skip fabric softeners which cause buildup.


Wash frequently as the fibers naturally hold onto odors. Use deodorizers while washing.

Merino Wool

Hand wash to avoid shrinkage. Use wool specific wash. Air dry fully.

Rubber and Neoprene

Rinse thoroughly as residual sweat and soap contributes to smell.

Silicone and Plastics

Do not use fabric softener as it causes buildup and odor retention on synthetic coatings.

Adjust practices based on the technical needs of workout wear textiles.

Gym Clothes Odor Prevention FAQs

Here are some common questions about handling smelly exercise attire:

How do you get the sweat smell out of clothes?

Wash clothes immediately after wearing. Pre-treat pits and collars. Use laundry sanitizer and baking soda. Add an extra rinse cycle.

Why do my clothes still smell after washing?

Excessive detergent can leave residue that binds odors. Clean the washing machine to eliminate internal mildew smells. Re-wash clothes.

Can I put sweaty gym clothes in the dresser?

Never store damp, smelly exercise clothes with clean clothes. The odors will transfer. Always fully dry and wash gym clothes first.

What gets rid of bacteria in clothes?

Washing with bleach, oxygen bleach powder or hydrogen peroxide safely removes bacteria without fading colors. Vinegar also disinfects.

Do you wash exercise clothes before wearing?

For brand new performance wear, yes – wash before the first wear to remove chemical residues that factory treatments leave behind.

Why do my workout clothes smell so bad?

Synthetic fabrics and direct skin contact create more odor issues. Sweat and humidity breed bacteria. Use antimicrobial laundry products.

Don’t let stinky exercise gear undermine your fitness motivation.

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