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How to wash smelly gym clothes

Working hard at the gym results in sweaty clothes! Don't just leave them lying on the floor - read on for tips on how to easily clean smelly gym clothes.


how to clean sweaty clothes: red trainers next to red gym bag with towels and water bottle

Key Steps

Banish sweat smells and stains from your gym clothes with these simple steps:

  • Don't let them fester! Instead of leaving sweaty clothes scrunched in your gym bag, air them as quickly as possible.
  • Soak them in white vinegar and water before washing.
  • Wash in the washing machine with a quality detergent and fragrant fabric softener.
  • Dry them naturally. Do not store until fully dried.

Whether it’s your gym gear or your kids’ PE kits, the problem of how to clean sweaty gym clothes is one shared by many households. Thankfully, there are a few simple tips that can be followed to wash gym clothes and avoid unwanted odours and hassle. Let's look at them in more detail.

Modern anti-sweat fabrics are great for wearing to the gym! But they won’t ensure your clothes completely avoid sweaty odours, so you still need to know how to clean them!

Has your lifestyle during the Covid-19 lockdown affected the type of stains you get on your clothes?

Hang and Air Sweaty Gym Clothes

The first step is to act quickly and, as soon as possible, open out the clothes, turn them inside out and hang them up to air and dry. Above all, do not leave sweaty gym clothes crumpled up in a bag, where they can develop mould and mildew, which is hard to shift, even after thorough washing. 


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Apply Vinegar

As with so many cleaning quandaries, the answer to how to clean gym clothes can be found in vinegar! Before putting the clothes in the washing machine leave them to soak in a vinegar and water solution (one part vinegar to four parts water). A half hour soak will give the vinegar time to act on the dirt before it can set into the fabric.  It’s a good idea to test this on a small area of the garment first to make sure that it will not damage your gym clothes.

Wash the Gym Clothes

Next step is to wash the clothes. Check the label on the material before choosing the setting on the machine: cotton fabrics will clean most effectively at high temperatures, whereas the modern tech fabrics are more fragile and can lose their effect when subjected to excess heat. Warm or even cold water is therefore more advisable, and you may prefer to do a hand wash.

In either case, a few drops of vinegar, or the juice of a lemon, can be added into the wash for additional effect (chuck it in with the clothes, not in the detergent compartment). Using a sportswear detergent, like CleanKit, will help wash away all odour-causing bacteria sticking to gym clothes, as well as preserving the fabric in the long run.

Drying the Gym Clothes

Once the wash is finished, the clothes must be dried. Cotton-based fabrics can be tumble-dried, but the tech fabrics should be allowed to air dry. Weather permitting, it is recommended to sun dry all of your gym clothes, as the sun’s rays act as a natural bacteria deterrent. If you do chose to tumble dry any clothes, always check the garment label first.

How to Clean Sweaty Gym Clothes – Emergency Measures

A bit of an out-there tip, but if your gym clothes are particularly smelly, try putting them in the freezer for a while before you pre-wash them (in a sealed plastic bag), to kill the smells and bacteria. Read our article 'how to get sweat smells out of clothes' for more great tips like this.

For targeted cleaning of particularly bad areas of your sweaty gym clothes, a pre-wash treatment can help. You can also let your sweaty gym clothes soak in a solution of mild washing detergent and cool water – just follow the directions on the label and use the amount of detergent advised for a pre-wash treatment.

Finally, there are specialised detergents out there that specifically deal with how to clean sweaty gym clothes, if this option is preferred.

Now you know how to keep your gym clothes free of sweat stains and smells, why not do the same for the rest of your gym equipment? Our article on how to clean a yoga mat is a good place to start!

Originally published