How to Wash Workout Clothes to Make Them Last

Spin cycle? Cold water? All your questions answered.

The clothes make the workout! Well, not entirely. But we certainly can attest that finding the right pieces of clothing can play a big role in our fitness success. It’s not always easy—or cheap—to find that perfect pair of leggings, shorts, or that sports bra that actually does its job. So, when we do, we want to make them last as long as possible. Since we groove, run, jab, commute, travel, brunch, and relax in our leggings, sports bras, and tanks, they’re bound to have wears and tears. But, to make them last longer—and have more adventures in them!—there are a few strategies that you can practice when washing and cleaning your fitness staples. From the proper settings for the spin cycle to what to hang dry, here’s how fitness professionals who live, breathe, and work in their gear wash workout clothes.

Put your workout gear to the test with an Aaptiv class, we promise you’ll be sweaty. 

Don’t dry your sports bras.

Most women choose not to dry their every day or lacy bras because they lose their shape when tossed around in a dryer. The same method applies to your athleisure delicates, and is recommended by Certified Personal Trainer Jill McKay. After you wash your sports bra, she says to allow it to air dry on a folding rack. This ensures that it keeps its structure and provides the support you need to give it your all during your next workout. She explains that it’s also worth the splurge to find bras that fit your specific body and, then, treat them kindly. “Most of my workout clothes are not fancy, so I will dry them—but the expensive bras I consider an investment, so those I prefer to let those dry naturally,” she adds.

Wash in cold water.

Remember when you were tasked with doing laundry on your own for the first time? You might have called your mom, a best friend, or a sibling to understand what setting is best for the contents of your load. Even if laundry is second nature by now, the temperature of the water matters to prevent your workout clothes from shrinking or fading. McKay says that since most athletic tops and bottoms are either a standby black or a vibrant pattern, choosing ‘cold’ over ‘warm’ or ‘hot’ will keep their color longer—and prevent them from stretching.

Shower with your shoes on.

Sounds a bit crazy—but Kyle Kranz, C.P.T., says it works. Instead of putting your shoes in a washer (which could cause damage), just wear your shoes when you shower. “Walk straight into the shower with your completely sweat-saturated shoes on and wash them off in there,” he recommends. “Putting newspaper into the wet shoes can help speed up the drying process. If you must put running shoes in a washing machine, try putting them into a pillowcase tied shut. This will keep the shoes—especially the laces—safe from getting too beat up and tangled.”

Wash for a short amount of time, in small loads.

Don’t put everything in at once or for the same amount of time. Set aside your workout clothes from your massive towel load if you want to preserve their quality. How come? Overloading a washing machine or keeping them on a lengthy cycle could cause unnecessary tossing and tension. This can cause rips, tears, or stretching. Instead, keep the wash time low and keep the load small for best results, McKay recommends.

Soak to eliminate smells.

Even though you put enough detergent to ward away the stint of your post-boxing odor, does your shirt still come out of the wash, ahem, less than rosy? McKay says that this could be because you didn’t soak it long enough. “If clothing smells, I soak it for no longer than 30 minutes in a solution of vinegar and water before sending it through a light or delicate wash. This eliminates the odors and is still gentle on the clothing,” she explains.

Don’t pack sweaty clothing in a gym bag.

If you can help it, McKay says that it’s better to let your workout clothes breathe right after you finish your session to keep their shape and to prevent paralyzing odors. When you pack them up in your gym bag right after you take ‘em off, McKay says that you lock in the scent, and your clothing may never turn back to its previous condition. “Rinse the clothing in the sink and lay it flat to dry in the back of my car. If it needs an additional wash when I get home, so be it—but the initial rinse helps keep odor from setting in,” she explains.

Your fitness goals might have an end date, but your workout clothes don’t have to—not yet at least. Keep your favorites working as hard as you are with these simple tips to wash workout clothes. And check out Aaptiv, a personal training app, to discover a variety of ways to mix up your fitness routine.



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