The Best Ways to Wash Workout Clothes

Activewear will last longer if you wash it the right way

An intense workout can improve your mood and overall health, but it isn’t so nice on your gear and clothes.

Technical gear, which is made up of moisture-wicking fabric, a type of material that moves perspiration to the surface of clothing, can often end up with an odor after use and sometimes even after an initial cleaning. While a couple of washes with traditional detergents may work, a few companies have come up with more options to combat the smell and properly clean activewear, including specifically designed detergents and home remedies.

“Technical fabrics are designed differently than cotton, they have a hollow weave and the sweat molecule gets stuck in the hollow weave,” Michael McGrane, director of sales and marketing at WIN Detergent, based in New York, said. “Traditional detergents are designed to clean cotton, but don’t do a very good job of cleaning odor trapped in technical fabric.”

Traditional detergents, unlike sportswear detergents, often have a focus on removing stains.

“With sweaty sportswear or for that matter musty towels, or anything that is dank and damp, it’s not really an issue of soils and stains, but really of odor, which is caused by bacteria,” Kendra Doersam, owner of No Sweat, a line of active lifestyle products based in Ontario, said. “It’s a lot better for the fabrics because you don’t actually need to get rid of stains, which causes a lot of the color fading.”

With a specialized focus on odor, sportswear detergents have different formulas than those of traditional detergents. For example, No Sweat is made up of a combination of enzymes that eat away at bacteria, leaving gear soft and smell-free.

Aside from removing the odor, sportswear detergents are made with special fabrics in mind. Runners, bicyclists and anyone else heavily involved in an active lifestyle know that technical gear can be costly.

“It restores the wicking properties of these expensive synthetic fabrics,” McGrane said.

Some brands, like lucy activewear based in Connecticut, integrate the cleaning process when making these fabrics.

“Because fabric care is so important, we developed lucysuds, which is formulated specifically for activewear, to keep delicate fibers supple while maintaining wicking ability,” Isabelle De La Fontaine, product line director of lucy activewear, said. They suggest using cold water with their products to keep the colors from fading.

There are a number of detergents made specifically for sportswear; popular brands include Penguin Brands and Nikwax, as well as WIN and No Sweat. Many of the sportswear detergents can be purchased on their websites or

But if you’re hesitant about purchasing a sportswear detergent, there are other options, too.

Penny Schwyn, the technical sewing specialist and owner of Specialty Outdoors based in Washington state, has a recipe that she uses for ‘stinky bike gear,’ but that can also be applied to other technical gear as well: Soak the gear in Biz, an enzyme-based presoak that goes after organic matter, overnight or for at least 12 hours. Then rinse it out and run the gear through the wash with Oxyclean, which can be found at most supermarkets.