The Playbook For The Modern Man

How To Keep Your Workout Clothes From Smelling Bad, According To A Germ Expert

Have your gym shorts reached inflexion point?

We’ve all rocked up to the gym, opened our bag, pulled out a freshly laundered pair of shorts and… wondered where that gross smell is coming from. You dig through the headphones, jumper and shoes to get to the bottom of your kit and…  nothing.

No rotten banana. No fetid socks. Not even a sweaty towel. You raise your thigh huggers to your nose and inhale.


Your gym shorts have reached the dreaded point where, even after a wash, they smell like a bucket of prawns left out in the sun…

Technically known as ‘rebloom,’ you may not know the word—but you surely recognise the stench. And—ironically—this ‘inflexion point’ is more liable to occur within your expensive activewear than your regular clothes.


This is because in wicking your sweat to the surface (to keep you cool and dry), performance fabrics have “extra nooks and crannies that cling to dirt and odours”, laundry expert Mary Marlowe Leverette recently revealed in Women’s Health.


Mary, a consultant to detergent manufacturers, consumer textile distributors, and appliance developers, also explained that washing powders struggle to penetrate those grooves, and can even trap the bad stuff in.


Also, considering how fast your gym shorts dry, they’re actually one of the most common items you forget to wash—despite being the most important-to-wash and germ ridden thing in your closet.

So—to prevent an unholy aroma from ruining your attempt to flirt with your attractive new yoga teacher or PT, here’s how to keep your gym clothes from stinking.


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Air Them Out

As long as this doesn’t make you forget to wash them, it’s better to air out your gym gear before it goes in the laundry, rather than letting it sit in a sodden heap.

Chuck ‘Em In The Freezer

If you don’t mind your T-bone steaks going a bit funky, putting your gym gear in the freezer will stop germ and bacteria growth in its tracks. It won’t however, stand in for a proper wash. But if you can’t get to a machine until the weekend, it’s the next best thing.

Don’t Overdo The Detergent

Counterintuitive: sure. But as laundry expert Mary Leverette told Women’s Health, adding extra suds to your wash can cause extra soap scum on your clothes, which can cause a buildup of mould and mildew—food sources for bacteria.

Forget The Fabric Softener

“Fabric softeners can clog the fibres of performance fabrics, keeping water and detergent from getting into those grooves for a deep clean, and messing with moisture-wicking and odour-fighting properties,” (Women’s Health).

Wash ‘Em Inside Out

Not only will this protect your clothes’ colour, but the inside part of your gym gear tends to be the whiffiest.


Pour Some Lemon Juice In With The Load

Did you know citric acid can break down oils from your body stuck in your clothes, which can help demolish persistent odours? Now you do.

Get Over Your Dryer Dependency

Despite your best intentions, when you put a load of clothes in the dryer and sit down for “just one” episode of Netflix, that quick 45 minutes can turn into two hours. And even in the best case scenario, where you remove your clothes from the dryer straight away, they will likely go on to sit in a hot, humid washing basket for a couple of hours (or weeks).

Go Nuclear

Three options here.

  • Add baking soda to a load of washing.
  • Soak the offending items overnight in vinegar.
  • Soak the offending items (particularly if they are mildewy) overnight in buttermilk.

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