By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
If we’re being honest, re-wearing gym clothes is something we’ve all been guilty of. There are contradictory theories on how often you should wash athleisure wear. Is it necessary to wash your gym clothes after every workout, or can you wear them a couple of times before you throw them in your laundry basket? Workout clothes can lose their stretch if they’re washed too often. So while they absorb more sweat and dead skin cells than your regular clothes, meaning you will want to wash them often, they are more fragile and need to be handled with care. Detergent and fabric softeners can literally destroy your clothes if they’re misused! Here are a few tips to help with the care of your athletic clothing.
Let’s back up a second and think about how much laundry detergent to use per wash. If detergent is a major culprit for ruining your clothes, how can you get the stink out? First things first, stop using extra detergent to kill the smell! Extra detergent actually makes your clothes smell like mildew. The excess builds up on your gear and traps dead skin cells, giving mold and fungus the perfect environment to thrive. Nasty! The best way to use detergent is to add a little less than the bottle tells you to for your load size.
Fabric softeners are even worse for your gym clothes than detergent. They lock in odors and destroy the materials that give your clothes their stretch! If you want to soften your clothes and kill smells, cleaning experts advise adding white vinegar to your wash instead. White vinegar is not only cheaper, but it is better for the environment as well. Win-win in my book!
Now that you know you should be using less detergent and more white vinegar, let’s figure out how often you really need to wash your workout clothes. Most cleaning experts would say you really should launder your outfits after every single use. Even if you did a low-impact workout like yoga and didn’t feel yourself break a sweat, you need to do laundry. As you move, your skin leaves yeast and bacteria buildup on your clothes, increasing your risk of getting skin rashes, hives, and allergies. If you don’t wash them right away, the bacteria will continue to multiply, and the more time that passes, the worse it will become. Antimicrobial features in gym clothes don’t save them from bacteria buildup. The only way to truly destroy the dirt and grime is to throw them into the washing machine.
Most of us are so busy it’s hard to do laundry often. Are there any exceptions to this rule? Are there any gym clothes we can get away with re-wearing? Generally speaking, no, but there are some clothes that are safer to re-wear than others. See below for a breakdown on how often to wash each part of your gym outfit, from head to toe.
Tops you might be able to wear twice before you wash. However, if you’re wearing a shirt that has a built-in bra, forget about it!
There’s really no getting out of this one! Sports bras have to be washed after every single wear, regardless of how much you were sweating. Because of the constant contact they make with your skin, bras are a germ paradise. So keep washing them to prevent infection and keep your personal hygiene game strong!
Just because your bottoms are black doesn’t mean you should put off washing them. Bacteria isn’t picky about what color you’re wearing. Did you know recent research has shown the average pair of pants have 76 times more bacteria than a toilet bowl? Imagine how much worse this is for pants you’re exercising vigorously in. Most people have been guilty of re-wearing leggings. Chances are, if you’re one of these people, you’ve most likely developed something called folliculitis or “butt acne.” If you were wondering what that was from, now you know! Try these remedies for clear skin.
Shorts are the only bottoms you can get away with washing after two uses—unless they’re the kind with built-in underwear! Because they’re usually more loose fitting, bacteria doesn’t get trapped in shorts as easily, and they aren’t as much of a health risk to wear again.
I hope it’s obvious that socks should only be worn once. After a workout, your feet are one of the most bacteria-ridden parts on your body! This is partially due to the fact they’re doubly-encased by socks and not-so-breathable shoes. So, please wash your socks after each wear. And you can keep your sneaks smelling a lot better for much longer if you keep your socks fresh!
Still confused about the best ways to wash your clothes? Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through.
Not washing your clothes can have some unpleasant effects on your health. I doubt there’s ever been a case of a gym rat dying from their dirty gym clothes, but it is certainly not something to neglect. If you care enough about your health to work out, why mess that up by exposing yourself to harmful bacteria? Wellness includes following good self-care rituals at all times.
And bacteria isn’t the only consideration when deciding when to wash your gym clothes. Sweat doesn’t smell nice when it dries, and gym clothes often get musty. It’s important to take into consideration the senses of those around you when you’re at the gym. For your health and the happiness of your fellow gym members, be sure to launder your gym clothes frequently and properly.