We’ve all been there. You pull your favorite compression leggings out of the wash only to find that they’ve become impossibly snagged in the zipper of your skinny jeans… or perhaps they’ve acquired the stench of a thousand pounds of sauerkraut. The reality is that incorrect washing can destroy or significantly shorten the life of your gear. But don’t throw in the towel just yet; we’re here to show you the proper way to wash workout clothes. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty…
DO: Air out
Don’t let your clothing sit in a sweaty bundle. You’re virtually rolling out the welcome mat for mold and mildew. Hang items to dry instead of leaving them in your gym bag or tossing them in your hamper. Since most fitness fabrics are non-absorbent to begin with, they’ll dry in a snap.
DO: Wash cold
This may seem counterintuitive, but washing in cold water is a must. (The care label of nearly any workout garment will back this up.) Keeping it chill prevents shrinkage and the breakdown of highly elastic fabrics.
DO: Wash inside out
Sweat, bacteria, and natural body oils accumulate on the inside of the fabric, so flipping your items before washing is key. This ensures your washing machine can get straight to work on the dirtiest bits. Turning clothing inside out also helps prevent fabrics from visibly pilling.
DO: Use white vinegar to eliminate odors
If things have gotten a little out of hand on the funk front, there are plenty of effective odor eliminating products available, but we prefer to keep things simple and all-natural with white vinegar. When needed, add half a cup to the softener compartment, so clothes will get a clarifying rinse after the wash cycle. And never fear, any lingering vinegar smell will disappear as your gear dries.
DON’T: Wash with abrasive garments
Mesh and cut-outs are having a big moment right now, and those on-trend details require extra TLC. Sort your gym duds in a separate load from your denim and other pieces with zippers or metal hardware. If that’s not possible in your busy life, mesh delicate bags are your new best friend. (Bonus: They’re ideal for keeping regular bras, sweaters, and embellished clothing safe too.)
DON’T: Use too much detergent
Take it easy there, killer. Excess detergent can cause build-up in fabrics, locking in the stink from your workout. It can even lead to nasty fungal growth. Eau de mildew, anyone? Be careful with concentrated detergents especially. Chances are, you’re using at least twice what you need.
DON’T: Use fabric softener
This is the absolute most important step. It can mean the difference between feeling like a million bucks or feeling like a swamp creature at the gym. Fabric softener clogs up the fibers of your fitness garments, leaving a coating that prevents them from truly getting clean. It also blocks the moisture-wicking capabilities of technical fabrics. The same goes for dryer sheets—just say no.
DON’T: Use the dryer
Air dry, always! Otherwise, you may as well hold a memorial service for every last piece of lycra you own. High heat can damage the elasticity and shape of spandex/lycra fabrics and trap in any unpleasant scents not removed during the wash. But let’s get real—we can’t always schedule our lives perfectly, so if you’re in a rush, be sure to tumble on a low or no-heat setting.