How to Take Care of your Running Clothes

You know how you take a nice clean running shirt out of your drawer, put it on and you head out for your run, only to find that 10 minutes into your workout it starts to stink as if it had come out of the dirty clothes hamper? Is there any hope (aside from disposable running clothes) to remove the stink and really get that laundry clean?

Well, yes, but there is a reason our technical fabrics hold on to the stink, and it starts with the way those clothes are made and what they are made of. In one of my favorite Another Mother Runner Podcasts (yes it’s about laundry…don’t judge), the ladies talk with a textile scientist by the name of Melissa Ellfers, and she had a lot to say about the uniqueness of our new-fangled tech gear.

Ellfers says that most running gear is made of microfiber polyester, which is manufactured by extrusion into a fine silk-like fiber. This fibers are not cylindrical, however, and the way they are woven together to create fabric allows for moisture to escape in between the fibers. Polyester dries quickly, and absorbs almost no water. Since sweat is mostly water and electrolyte salts, it’s easy to clean that stuff out of fabrics. However, the stink-makers are really the natural oils from our bodies. Polyester ABSORBS those oils, and it takes some special treatment to get them out.

The fact that our clothes stink even after we wash them in regular detergent is an issue of heat, not sweat. Our body heat activates the stink in the oils all over again.

The other problem is what we do with our clothes after we take them off. We put them in the hamper still damp with sweat, and we wait a few days to wash them. If you don’t do that, good for you…my family is lucky I get laundry done at all sometimes.

According to Ellfers, the best way to wash your tech fabrics is through agitation, time, and temperature. Most High Efficiency washers, though, are front-load (no agitator) and use lower temps to save energy. You can add a towel to your running laundry to add abrasion, “cleaning” the fabric, and add more time to the cycle (although because of the HE concept, wash cycles tend to be longer). Whether or not you dry your gear in the dryer or hang them is up to you…it doesn’t take much for them to dry.

In the second half of this podcast, Cathy Horton, creator of SweatX Sport detergent explains that this cleaning solution operates on a nano-scale, essentially “exfoliating” your tech fabrics of the crud that lingers in your equipment. It’s highly concentrated and undiluted, so you don’t need much for one load of laundry.

I personally can’t recommend this stuff enough. My running gear no longer stinks 10 minutes into my run…I mean it starts to smell after, but that’s because I used it again…

For more information, please check out the AMR podcast, and check out SweatXSport website. No affiliate links here. Seriously, try this stuff. It’s amazing!

If you’ve tried it please let me know your thoughts in the comments, or if you have any questions, please leave those as well.