5 Ways to Remove Odor From Running Clothes

Woman throwing clothes in washing machine
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Technical fabrics are great for running because they wick away sweat during hard workouts. But they also have a reputation of trapping body odor and retaining the smell even after laundering. So how do you get rid of the bad smell out of your running clothes? There are a few solutions that may work.

Why Do Running Clothes Smell After Laundering?

You might assume that the smell on your running clothes comes from the sweat you generate during runs. While sweat contributes to the problem, it isn't actually the cause. In fact, sweat itself is odorless.

The odor comes from bacteria that are present on your skin. Bacteria thrive in moist environments. So when you sweat (especially in areas such as your underarms, pubic area, or groin) bacteria breed and multiply. The byproduct of this bacteria activity causes an odor, commonly called body odor or BO.

The medical term for body odor is bromhidrosis, and it is a normal condition.

Odors caused by bromhidrosis become trapped in the fabric fibers and this is where things get tricky. Various types of fiber trap and hold on to odors differently.

Many athletes choose technical running gear because it has moisture-wicking properties. That means that it pulls moisture away from your skin so that you stay dry and comfortable during workouts. This feature can also help you to avoid blisters and rashes.

However, moisture-wicking clothes are generally made out of polyester. Unlike natural fibers (like cotton and wool) polyester traps odor so that it becomes harder to remove.

So should you ditch your technical gear in favor of old-school cotton and wool? Probably not. Instead, use better washing techniques to get odors out of running gear.

5 Tips to Get Odor Out of Running Clothes

If you love the lightweight feel and stay-dry properties of your technical shorts, pants, and tops then keep them. Use these tips to keep them fresh.

Don't Delay

Washing your clothes soon after you run will make a huge difference since the bacteria grows and the smell gets worse over time. If you've ever left a sweaty shirt in a gym bag, car, or laundry basket for a couple of days, you have first-hand experience with this.

Experts advise washing your gear within a day of wearing it. However, if you can't do a full load of laundry, at least try to rinse your clothes in water to loosen the stains.

Use a Pre-Soak

If you pre-soak your clothes, you'll have a better shot at removing stains and odors. There are different pre-soak solutions that you can use.

Some people use a simple solution of water and baking soda (one cup of baking soda diluted in a cup or two of water).

Other experts advise using white distilled vinegar (one part vinegar to four parts cold water). The acid in vinegar helps to break up odors so that can be washed away in the regular laundry cycle.

Lastly, you can use a commercial pre-soak product or detergent. Brands like Tide and Hex make detergents and detergent boosters that you can use to pre-soak your clothes and loosen odors and stains.

Either use the pre-soak feature on your washing machine or simply soak clothes in a sink or tub for 30 minutes before washing.

Use a Sports Laundry Detergent

Try using a special detergent formulated for technical sportswear. These types of detergents are designed to remove the odor, but won't degrade sweat-wicking or water-repellent properties. They are also often designed to tackle other stains, such as grass or mud.

Use an Odor Eliminator

There are also odor eliminators on the market that you add to your wash load along with detergent. Brands like Febreze and OxiClean make odor-eliminating products that you can add directly to your wash along with your favorite detergent. These products can generally be used in any washing machine, including high efficiency (HE) models.

If you prefer not to buy an extra sports-specific product, you can also add vinegar to your laundry load to give it an odor-busting boost. While pre-soaking with vinegar works best, adding vinegar to your wash cycle can also help to loosen and remove odors.

Buy Odor-Fighting Running Clothes

There are also lots of new odor-fighting running clothes on the market. They may sound too good to be true, but these running clothes do actually help keep you dry and odor-free.

There are different techniques that companies use to make their fabrics odor-resistant. A common technique is to include some metal in the fiber blend, such as copper or silver. Silver, for example, attaches to bacteria so that it can't get locked into the fabric's fiber and is, therefore, easier to remove.

The downside is that some of these odor-resistant running products are more expensive than your average running shirts and shorts. But they may be worth the investment if they last longer and keep you smelling fresh.

Can Deodorants Prevent Smelly Running Clothes?

Using a deodorant may help keep your running clothes fresh in some situations. But it may depend on your body and the type of product you buy.

Since odor is produced when bacteria comes in contact with sweat, you'll want to buy a deodorant that also helps to reduce sweating. These are called antiperspirants.

But an an antiperspirant alone probably won't do the trick, so when shopping for the best product it is smart to look for a combination antiperspirant plus deodorant.

The downside to relying on these products alone is that they can also leave stains on clothing, especially if you use too much of them. In addition, they are usually only applied to the underarms and not to other areas of the body that may be more sensitive.

If you feel that you sweat too much during exercise, you can also consider talking to a dermatologist. There are medical treatments that you can investigate that may help you manage sweat during exercise.

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