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How to Wash Activewear

July 10, 2020

Your activewear has a tough job. You expect your tank tops, running shorts, underwear, and hoodies to let you move and keep you comfortable during your workouts and throughout your day, no matter what pace you’re putting them through.  

It’s a tough job, absorbing the sweat, oils, and dead skin that your body sheds when you’re working out. So you might think that you just accept the fact that your sportswear becomes a bit funky over time. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you know how to wash your sportswear the right way, it will stay a lot fresher, a lot longer, plus your favorite sweatpants will last longer too.  

How Activewear Is Different

When you put on a high-quality piece of activewear, like bike shorts or short sleeve t-shirts from a best selling brand like Willy California, you can tell right away that they’re built to perform. The cut is exact, the fabric light, and they have a certain degree of stretch you won’t find in a cotton crew neck tee shirt or a pair of denim jeans. These attributes help make activewear perform the way you want it to, but they also make washing and care more difficult. Let’s examine some of the differences more closely. 

Specialized Fabrics

The paradox of quality activewear is that it’s durable enough to stand up to hard use, but delicate when it comes to cleaning and care. That’s a result of the very specialized fabrics that are used to make activewear. In particular, many pieces of athleisure like leggings and yoga pants use spandex or elastane to add support and stretchiness. Both of these materials can be damaged by laundry additives like fabric softeners or by excessive heat. 

Lightweight Design

To achieve the light weight that we prize in our activewear, manufacturers need to employ thin and light fabrics that are moisture-wicking. Even when these fabrics are durable, they won’t hold up to repeated washings as well as clothing made from heavier cloth.

Tougher Cleaning Demands

Of course, one of the biggest problems you encounter in washing activewear is the degree of cleaning you’ll need to do. If you’re working up a sweat at the gym, imagine what effect your perspiration is having as it soaks into your clothes. Your sweat and oils from your skin create a perfect environment for the creation of odor-causing bacteria. If you don’t wash your activewear properly, these bacteria will flourish and create a sour, musty smell that is hard to get rid of. 

Some Common Activewear Washing Mistakes

There’s a right way to wash your workout gear, but it’s a good idea to look at some of the common mistakes that we often make when doing our laundry. Eliminating these mistakes is an important way to stay on the right foot going forward.

Don’t Mix Fabrics

You may be tempted to toss your activewear into the wash along with your gym towels and other items, like socks, sweatshirts, swimwear, lingerie, or jeans. That’s a big mistake. Heavy items like denim jeans and towels can damage the lighter fabrics used in your activewear, causing pilling. And clothes with stretch fabrics like jogger shorts are prone to trapping lint from cotton clothing when you put them all in the same load. 

Don’t Use Too Much Detergent 

Your clothes are dirty? Pour in a little extra detergent, right? Not so fast. Too much detergent is actually bad for your activewear wardrobe. Instead of making your clothes cleaner, all you’re doing is adding a layer of soap residue that traps odors. The same goes for fabric softeners — keep them far away from your activewear ensembles. 

Avoid High Temperatures

Clothes with elastic fibers like high rise capri leggings, biker shorts, v-neck t-shirts, and strappy racerback sports bras do not handle heat well. When washing your activewear and loungewear, go with cold water, and tumble dry low. Or even better, air dry your clothing. 

Doing the Job Right — A Step-By-Step Guide

Ready to get started washing your activewear the right way? Just follow this guide and you won’t go wrong!

Turn Your Gear Inside Out Before You Start

Taking just a few moments to turn your clothing inside out before washing will make a big difference in how clean they become. The reason is simple. With athletic gear, the real action is against your skin. That’s where sweat, oils, and dead skin cells accumulate, so you want to expose this side to the benefits of your wash.

Use the Right (and the Right Amount) of Detergent

Don’t guess about how much detergent to use. Read the instructions and then measure out a bit less than the recommended amount. And consider investing in some detergent that’s made for activewear. You may spend a bit more, but the results will be better. Also pay close attention to color and designs on your sportswear like logos and graphic tees, camo, and tie-dye shirts to make sure that those features survive the wash. 

Use the Right Settings on Your Washing Machine

You did read the label on your clothing, right? If you didn’t check the care label so you get the right water temperature. If you’re in doubt, go with a cold water wash that works well with everything from dri fit long sleeve t-shirts to sleeveless crop tops. 

Skip the Dryer and Air Dry If Possible 

Your clothes will last longer if you skip the dryer, plus there’s less opportunity to “bake in” odors. Invest in a folding drying rack if you don’t have a clothesline available. 

Proper Care For Happy Activewear

With the right care, your workout clothes will last longer, look better, and smell fresher. It’s simple  — if you care enough to invest your money in high-quality activewear why not invest your time in learning how to wash and care for it properly? Take care of your gear and you’ll always look good when you hit the gym. The rest is up to you.