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How To Wash Workout Clothes

When it comes to your wardrobe, few items are as hardworking as your workout clothes. Made to bend, stretch and wick away moisture, these shirts, pants and other items need special care to keep them looking (and smelling) their best. Follow our step by step guide to learn how to clean your workout clothes the right way. You can also check out our FAQ section below to get answers to general questions about caring for workout clothes. As always, be sure to check garment care tags for specifics.

Workout gear laid out neatly on the floor Workout gear laid out neatly on the floor

How to wash gym clothes and activewear

What you’ll need for washing gym clothes

  • A sink or basin
  • Washing machine
  • Drying rack or dryer
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Laundry detergent
Two people wearing workout clothes and carrying workout gear. Two people wearing workout clothes and carrying workout gear.

Step 1. Turn your workout clothes inside out

Workout clothes are made to wick away moisture while you work out, which helps keep you cool and comfortable. Because of this, the inside of your workout shirts, pants and other items are more exposed to sweat and body oils. Turning your workout clothes inside out helps provide a more targeted clean.

Before turning your clothes inside out, be sure to close up any zippers, buttons, clasps or other fasteners. This, along with turning clothes inside out, can help protect performance fabric, keeping colors bright and avoiding snags during the wash cycle.

Step 2. Presoak your workout clothes if necessary

If your workout clothes are extra smelly after a workout session, there’s a simple way to deal with odors. Fill a large sink or basin with one part distilled white vinegar to four parts cold water. Place your workout clothes inside, submerge them, then let them soak for 15-30 minutes before washing.

Why white vinegar and cold water? White vinegar is a natural deodorizer, and the acidity of the vinegar helps break down sweat stains and other lingering build-up that can trap odors and bacteria over time. Cold water is best for washing workout clothes, since excess heat can damage the fabric and elasticity.

Workout clothes getting washed in a washing machine. Workout clothes getting washed in a washing machine.

Step 3. Wash using cold water and a gentle cycle

Washing gym clothes in cold water helps keep these items in the best shape possible. Use a gentle cycle to help protect the fabric’s elasticity and wicking properties, and don’t use too much detergent. Swash® detergent can help you use the right amount thanks to the Precision Pour Cap, which stops automatically for less mess, no guess dosing. Just use one squeeze for a regular sized load. Experts also advise against using fabric softener.

While it may seem counterintuitive, there’s a good reason for using less detergent and avoiding fabric softener when washing your gym clothes. Both detergent and fabric softener residue can build up on fabric over time, and this build-up can affect the ability of your workout clothes to wick moisture when you work out. In fact, too much build-up can even harbor bacteria and mildew, allowing it to grow and worsening odors over time. Instead of relying on detergent or fabric softener to keep your workout clothes smelling fresh, use the presoaking method mentioned above or use an odor-eliminating product in your wash cycle.

Step 4: Air dry or tumble dry on the lowest heat setting

Once the wash cycle is complete, dry your workout clothes by hanging them from a clothesline or drying rack. Air drying your workout gear helps the fabric keep its shape and protects elastic from heat exposure. Alternatively, place your gym clothes in the dryer on the lowest heat setting.

Once your activewear is completely dry, you can hang it up or store it folded in a drawer. Be sure no moisture remains before you put these clothes away.

A person adjusts the dial on a Whirlpool dryer. A person adjusts the dial on a Whirlpool dryer.

How often should you wash your gym clothes?

The wash schedule for gym clothes is non-negotiable. Activewear should be washed after every use to ensure it stays free of the bacteria, yeast and fungus that get deposited onto clothes from your skin. These pathogens can multiply on damp, unwashed gym clothes. If you are unable to wash these clothes right away, hang them up and let them dry before putting them in your laundry basket. This eliminates the excess moisture bacteria, mildew and other odor-causing agents need to breed.

Should you wash your gym clothes separately?

When washing your gym clothes, it’s important to use cold water and a gentle cycle as mentioned above. While you don’t need to wash your activewear separately from your other laundry, you should wash these items with other delicate and/or synthetic fabrics to avoid excessive wear or snagging.

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What type of detergent is best for workout clothes?

A mild detergent is best when washing gym clothes. You can also use detergents that are specifically designed for workout clothes. These detergents are specially formulated to remove sweat and odors without clinging to your high performance gear.

In addition to choosing the right detergent, it’s also important to use the right amount. That’s why Swash® detergent features the exclusive Precision Pour Cap to help you use the correct amount of detergent for every wash load. Safe for both regular and HE washers, Swash® is available in classic Pure Linen, tropically-inspired Simply Sunrise and Free and Clear featuring no perfumes or dyes. Explore Swash® Laundry Deterget and find the right version for your laundry room today.

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