Whether you run, strength train, play hockey, or do yoga there is a good chance you have some sweaty clothes to deal with. In fact, you may have some nasty smelling clothes that just never seem to get clean. Thankfully, there are ways to help manage this without throwing out your favourite workout clothes (although for some clothing that may be the best solution!)
Sweat consists of 98% water as well as compounds such as salt, ammonia, and urea. Bacteria that lives on our skin feeds on these sweat compounds. As the bacteria breaks these compounds down it produces a bad smelling by-product called bromhidrosis (BO). Bromhidrosis (BO) is what causes your clothing and gear to stink and become a breeding ground for mold, fungus, bacteria, and potentially diseases. Smells are worse with synthetic fibres like polyester and nylon. These materials are attracted to oils and hold body oils, which promotes the smell. Synthetic fibres also dislike water so they wick water very quickly making it harder to clean.
Here are some tips to help fight the smell:
1) Clean your workout clothes as soon as possible – right after a workout is ideal. Throwing your damp clothes into a laundry hamper will be harder to clean and could encourage the growth of mold.
2) Ensure your clothes are washed thoroughly. Adding some stain remover or vinegar can be beneficial. Use a high quality detergent and think about using one with an odor eliminator.
3) Hang the clothes to dry but in a place that is airy and cool.
4) Clean your clothing after every use.
5) Consider using a deodorizing spray first. Allow it to dry. Then wash it.
6) Try using a low pH laundry “stripper” that removes leftover dirt, grime, and body oil. (Ex. Downy Rinse and Refresh)
7) Never put your clothes away damp. Make sure they are fully dry.
8) If you cannot wash your clothes the same day, hang them up to air dry until you can wash them.
What about your running shoes? You can wash some shoes in the washing machine. The best way to wash them is to pre-treat them with a quality stain remover for a few hours and then hand wash them in a sink. If you use a washing machine, put the shoes in a mesh bag and use the delicate cycle. To dry them stuff the shoes with towels or newspaper and allow them to air dry.
As for other gear. If you can, wipe the gear down after each use and air dry. You can also try using a deodorizing spray on them.
When should you throw the clothing/gear out? If the above methods do not get the smell out, then pitch it. If there is any sign of mold, you need to get rid of it.