How To Wash Workout Clothes

Alex Kinejara March 21, 2022
How To Wash Workout Clothes

By: Daisy Hemmen

Whether you’re working out or working from home, leggings and activewear are an essential part of your daily fit. They keep you comfortable and supported as you move through the day, so it’s only right to return the favor by keeping them carefully laundered and clean. 

It’s not quite as simple, however, as tossing them in the washing machine and waiting for them to emerge an hour later, sweat-free and shining. To keep them from pilling or losing their elasticity, you’ll need to take a slightly different approach. 

Washing gym clothes and women's activewear is unique to them and their specific fabrics. Keep reading to learn how to wash workout clothes gently and effectively. We’ll take you through a step-by-step process and clue you in on a few expert tips to keep those beloved leggings looking fresher, longer.

Washing 101 

So, what is activewear exactly and what's the 101 on washing it? Activewear can be anything from workout leggings to a sports bra that you wear during a workout or when active. Washing activewear is important to make your garments last longer. 

After an intense session at the gym—and a long day before that—you might be ready to set your gym bag on the floor and turn in for the night.

“I’ll handle it first thing tomorrow morning,” you think to yourself. 

But somehow, four days go by, it’s the end of the week, and your dirty workout clothing is still hanging out where you left it. 

We hate to break it to you, but your workout routine isn’t over when you get up from the mat. If you want your gear to last, you’ll have to treat it right, which means starting on the wash process as soon as you can. In fact, letting your gear sit overnight can result in:1 

  • Permanent stains as the sweat sets in
  • Bacteria buildup, which can result in stubborn odors

So, since we don't want our sweaty gym clothes to get ruined and the lingering odor to stink up the place, let’s get back to the basics and get washing.

women's bras

To Hand Wash or Machine Wash?

While your workout gear is delicate, it’s best to let your washing machine handle the job. This is because the spin cycle helps to loosen all the dirt and sweat that’s built up in your clothing. Hand washing may be gentler, but it may not get rid of the odor-causing bacteria as efficiently.

That said, there are some exceptions when handwashing is preferred or necessary, such as: 

  • The instructions tag specifically state to hand wash, which is often the case with essentials such as bras and underwear 
  • If the fabric is delicate, for example, featuring mesh cut-outs or tulle 

Step by Step 

Now that you’ve unloaded your gear from your gym bag, follow these steps to ensure you’re washing your activewear like a pro:  

  • Soak – When it comes to getting rid of odors, white vinegar is the magic elixir. Before you toss your workout clothing into the wash, let it soak in a basin of four parts water to one part white vinegar.1 It’s best to do this as soon as you get home, before the sweat and oil have set in. Allow it to soak for at least fifteen minutes or as long as an hour. 
  • Wash – When your gear is ready for a spin, make sure to choose the cold water setting. That’s because high temperatures can wear out elastics,2 and the last thing you want is for your favorite exercise shorts to lose their stretch. So take care of your activewear and stay away from hot water, and even warm water. 
  • Dry – To avoid heat, let your clothing air dry whenever possible.3 If you’re in a pinch and need your gear in a few hours, consider putting it in the dryer on the lowest setting and taking it out while damp. However, make sure to read the care instructions first, since some items shouldn’t go in the dryer at all. 
How To Wash Workout Clothes

Washing Your Workout Gear: Best Practices 

When it comes to taking care of your workout gear, you can never pay too much attention to the details. Beyond just the basics, follow these tried-and-true tips to get the most out of your wash: 

  • Go easy on the detergent – It can be tempting to throw in an extra handful of detergent to get your clothing squeaky clean, but this actually has the opposite effect. Excess detergent can stay in your gear, trapping sweat and oil.3 Instead, trust that the soaking process will break down the dirt and grime for you. 
  • Wash with lightweight fabrics – It might be tempting to toss your workout gear in the weekly wash with all your laundry—until you witness your delicate leggings becoming infinitely intertwined with a heavy towel. Prevent unnecessary wear and tear by washing your activewear separately from heavy clothing like jackets and long pants. 
  • Clean out that gym bag – If you’ve been following the cleaning instructions to a T, but your clothing still has that funny smell, it might be time to check out your gym bag. Remember that sweat and dirt will also build up there, so make sure to give it a regular wash as well. 

Now that you know the basics of washing sweaty workout clothes, they can stay clean and new all the time. If your gym bag is the culprit, add in some gym bag essentials (like a deodorizer) to ensure the lingering odor of old activewear doesn't transfer to the new. 

How To Wash Workout Clothes

Boody Eco Wear: Rock Your Workout in Our Eco-Friendly Fabrics 

Get the most out of your workout gear by washing all of your favorite essentials—the right way. If some of your staples do get lost in the wash, however, look to Boody's sustainable athleisure for long-lasting, fashionable replacements. Whether you're starting a new workout program or wondering if activewear is the answer to what to wear on a long flight, quality activewear shouldn't be hard to reach. 

From breathable, seamless sports bras to relaxed-fit, lightweight tank tops and shorts, our activewear collection is what you’ve been looking for to take your workout to the next level of performance and comfort. 

Shop Boody today for mindfully designed, sustainably sourced fitness staples. 


About the Author:

Daisy Hemmen is a San Diego State University Fowler College of Business alumni. Based in Encinitas, California, Daisy is a part of the marketing team at Boody North America. She is passionate about learning the ins and outs of living a happy and healthy lifestyle that benefits both people and the planet, and enjoys sharing her bountiful findings with the community.


  1. "10 Tips for Getting Workout Clothes Clean and Fresh." The Maids Blog. 29 September, 2021. 
  2. Biggs, Caroline. "9 Things You Don’t Know About Washing Your Gym Clothes." Apartment Therapy. 3 May, 2019. 
  3. Heid, Markham. "The Right Way to Wash Your Workout Clothes." Shape. 19 February. 2015. 

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