Author: James O’Sullivan • Fact checked by: Gainful Registered Dietitians • May 19, 2022
Evidence of a hard workout is usually left behind on your clothing: Not only is your gear usually drenched in sweat after exercising, your clothes also probably have a sweat smell — and that distinct smell can be tough to get out.
So what’s the best way to get the sweat smell out of your clothes? Below, we break down the best post-workout laundry strategies.
There’s a reason why sweat — and its smell — is able to get stuck in your clothing. Per a Procter & Gamble scientist that spoke with the Washington Post, 70% of laundry dirt is caused by body soils that the eye cannot spot. This includes sweat, shedded skin cells, salt and a waxy fat called sebum. These soils accumulate and settle in the fibers of clothing. When you sweat, these types of body soils get stuck within the fabric. The most difficult of these soils to remove from clothing is sebum because it is very sticky, allowing it to attract other odor-causing soils that then attach to fabrics.
A 2018 article titled “Spatial and temporal migration of sweat: from skin to clothing” published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology looked at garments that have the tendency to trap sweat. Clothing that does not have efficient moisture management features makes it easier for sweat to get stuck and, as a result, the clothing will have a lingering sweat scent and wetness. Clothing that traps sweat is known as anti-moisture-wicking fabrics, or non-wicking fabrics. A classic example of a fabric that is anti-moisture-wicking is cotton, which gets completely saturated with sweat and takes significantly more time to dry. Moisture-wicking clothing has tiny spaces in its fabric that liquids like sweat can move through, so the sweat can escape and does not get stuck within the fabric. Synthetic fabrics, like polyester or nylon, are moisture-wicking.
(And fun fact: wool is a moisture-wicking fabric. Wool may absorb a liquid into the core of its fibers, but it can wick the moisture out through small openings within the fabric. That’s why the surface of wool always stays dry.)
So now that you know why sweat and BO lingers on your workout clothing, how do you get them out?
The simplest, easiest and most efficient way to get sweat and sebum out of clothing is to soak and wash fabrics in hot water. But before you start filling up your washing machine with piping hot water, be warned: Most workout clothes are made from fabrics that cannot withstand heat.
Since hot or warm water is usually not an option, consider an alternate strategy: Purchase laundry detergents that are specifically formulated to address odors, as well as white vinegar or baking soda. Turn your workout clothing inside out before washing to allow detergent to tackle soils head on, then load your clothing in the washer. Add a ¼ cup to a ½ cup of white vinegar or baking soda along with your detergent. The specialty detergent will get the actual sweat out of your clothing, while the white vinegar and baking soda effectively remove the odor. Machine-wash your clothes in cold water. Once your clothes have completed a good wash cycle and rinse cycle, lay them out to dry.
Do not put your workout clothes in the dryer. Remember: Most workout clothes cannot withstand heat. As a general rule, always double check the care label before machine-washing your clothes.
One last disclaimer about this washing strategy: Be careful when using baking soda on bright, colorful workout gear, as baking soda can sometimes cause discoloration.
As briefly mentioned above, white vinegar is the secret weapon for getting underarm odor out of clothing, as it is an odor neutralizer.
For shirts with especially strong underarm stink, use at least a ? cup of white vinegar instead of just a ¼ cup.
Once you’ve gotten the sweat smell out of your clothes, chances are you want to keep it out.
Some tips for preventing the sweat smell in workout clothing:
When it comes to cleaning your gym clothes, keep yourself accountable with a routine.
Consider starting a post-workout routine that involves clearing out your gym bag, washing or separating workout clothes to prevent that sweat smell, and then refueling with protein powder. Gainful offers Personalized Protein for every type of person and every type of lifestyle — all you have to do is take the Gainful quiz to find the perfect post-workout protein and rehydrating products for you.
(And bonus: Every Gainful order comes with Flavor Boosts, so you can switch up the flavor of your post-workout, pre-laundry protein every single day. Choose from Strawberry Cream, Madagascar Vanilla, Rich Chocolate, Caffè Mocha, Cookies & Cream, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Matcha Green Tea and Cinnamon Toast.) ?
Don’t forget, all Gainful subscribers have access to their own Registered Dietician. You can always ask your RD questions about fitness topics outside of nutrition, such as questions regarding workout clothing and how to deal with sweat and that sweat smell.
From your protein to your workout gear, Gainful is here to help you with every aspect of your fitness routine.
© 2023 Gainful Health Inc.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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