5 Ways to De-Stink Your Gym Clothes

If people can smell you before they see you, it’s time for drastic cleansing measures.

Lara McGlashan MFA CPT | March 27, 2017


Every gym has one — that girl whose undercarriage precedes her to the powerlifting rack, that guy running on the treadmill whose wake smells like rotting death, that yogi whose Down Dog literally smells like dog.

Yes, gym clothes are supposed to smell a little funky when you’re through working out — after all, you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears (and more sweat) into your training. But when the funk does not debunk, even after laundering, you’ve got bigger bacteria to fry. Here are some easy ways to de-swamp your wardrobe. Employ them starting, like, now and relinquish your title of That Gal with relish. Let Your Sweaty

1. Clothes Dry

If you stuff your worn gym clothes into your bag thoughtlessly, you create a five-star bacteria hotel: dark, cozy and moist. Avoid establishing a Motel Stink by allowing clothing to dry before bagging it, or remove it immediately once home, turning items inside out to dry before tossing them in the laundry basket. Alternately, bag the clothing and put it in the freezer overnight for some bacterial genocide. True, you can’t wear those shorts the next day, but no microscopic bugs would likely survive the freeze and live to tell about it on the treadmill tomorrow anyway.

2. Soak Them in Vinegar

Vinegar helps kill off bacteria and breaks up accumulated oils and (ugh) proteins on the inside of your clothing that repel water. And since spandex and stretch fabrics are engineered specifically to wick away and repel water, you’ve got a double-stink whammy. Place the offensive garments in a sink full of cold water and add one cup of white vinegar. Soak them for 15 to 30 minutes, agitating frequently, then put them immediately in the washing machine. Worried they might still reek? Add another cup (or even two) of white vinegar to the rinse cycle.

3. Add Baking Soda

Like duct tape, baking soda has a host of oddball uses, not the least of which is as a cleanser and deodorizer. Baking soda neutralizes bacterial acids, eliminating the stankiest of stanks, while also helping dissipate oils, proteins and grease. If you have a top loader, you can dissolve a cup of baking soda in the machine as it fills. Add only a small amount of detergent — too much makes the water viscous and prevents it from penetrating the clothing. Once filled, add your clothes, but skip the fabric softener — it adds a barrier of buildup that locks in smells and can actually break down elastic fabrics, ruining their fit.

4. Dry in the Sun

El sol. Once your clothes have been soaked, scrubbed and spun, hang them to dry in the sun. The sun is a natural deodorizer and will work its UV wonders on your favorite workout wear as it airs out; just be sure to turn your garments inside out to prevent fading.

5. Pull Out the Big Guns

When all else fails, go for a commercial product made specifically for ousting the funkiest of funks. There are some easy-to-use products that don’t involve guesswork: You simply use them in place of your detergent and voilà — fresh as a daisy. For those with sensitive skin, look for dye- and fragrance-free versions.

About the Author

Lara McGlashan MFA CPT

Oxygen Fitness Editor Lara McGlashan has more than 15 years of experience as a writer and editor, who specializes in health, fitness, and nutrition. 

Lara is an ACE-certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. Her sports background includes skiing, snowboarding, flying trapeze, yoga, competitive beach volleyball, dance, mountain biking, hiking and running, to name a few endeavors. She is currently exploring the world of CrossFit in her home base of Connecticut, where she lives with her 2-year-old son, Alex.

You can follow her on Facebook at LaraFitnessEditor.