Why Do Workout Clothes Smell?

Workout clothes often smell bad after a strenuous session. Here’s a look at why that happens and how you can prevent it.

What Causes Workout Clothes to Smell?

Working out can often cause your clothes to develop an odor that can be difficult to get rid of. This is due to a combination of sweat, bacteria, and fabric fibers. It’s important to know what causes these smells so you can find the right solution to keep your workout clothes smelling fresh. Let’s take a closer look at what’s causing the odor in your clothes.


Bacteria is one of the most common causes of malodorous workout clothing. During your workout, sweat provides an ideal environment for bacteria to grow. The combination of sweat, oil, and dirt that accumulates in clothes throughout a workout session generates an especially hospitable environment for bacteria, which love warm, damp places. This warm and damp environment gives bacteria the opportunity to feed on sweat and oil on the fabric and cause unpleasant odors in your clothes.

To protect against smelly clothing due to bacteria, it’s important for you to keep both your laundry washing machine and dryer clean. If you don’t remove residual soap residues after washing a load of laundry and leave them sitting in the washer, these residues can form a film that allows bacteria to grow quickly on synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon as they don’t absorb smells well at all. Additionally, keeping your dryer clean is key since dirt particles can build up inside the drum during periods of extended use without proper cleaning –the same is true with any add-on freshening sheets you may use when drying clothes -they must be changed frequently so as not to harbor odor-causing substances.


Sweat is the primary culprit when it comes to smelly workout clothes. Sweating is a natural and necessary bodily process that helps to regulate temperature. When your body is engaged in physical activity, such as a workout, your sweat glands activate and perspiration occurs. During physical activity, sweat levels increase and the amount of bacteria on your skin also increases with it. This bacteria mixes with sweat, produces odor-causing compounds, and will attach to the fibers of your clothing.

As you wear moisture-wicking fabrics for workouts, these fabrics are designed to pull sweat away from the body and keep you cool during exercise. However, when sweat wicks away from your skin, it’s still there on the fabric — just moved away from you instead of creating dampness on your skin. These fabrics are made to stretch too — this stretch factor in combination with moisture creates an environment where bacteria can thrive once more —and then can lead to that dreaded “workout smell” lingering around long after you leave the gym.

Synthetic Fabrics

Synthetic fabrics like polyester, Lycra and spandex may be lightweight, stretchy and comfortable for sports activities, but they contain chemicals that can produce a rank smell when you sweat. The problem is caused by bacteria that feeds on the moisture and breaks down these fabrics.

These synthetic fabrics are not porous like natural fibers like cotton or wool, so they don’t allow your sweat to evaporate quickly. Since the moisture lingers on your clothes, bacteria grows quickly in these environments and creates an unpleasant smell. To prevent buildup of bacteria that causes bad odors, it’s important to wash your workout clothes regularly in a detergent formulated to kill odor-causing bacteria. Adding a few drops of tea tree oil or an antibacterial essential oil works too.

For added protection from stinky smells after your workouts, use fabric refreshers like Febreze Sport or specialty odor repellants designed specifically for sweaty clothing. These quick sprays work to neutralize smells and conditions the fabric so odors don’t build up between washes — talk about winning!

How to Prevent Smelly Workout Clothes

We’ve all been there. You enter the gym and start sweating, only to be met with a strong smell of your workout clothes. Whether it is caused by the buildup of sweat and bacteria or the fabric itself, smelly workout clothes can be a real issue. Luckily, there are ways to prevent this issue before it starts. In this article, we will explore some tips and tricks on how to prevent smelly workout clothes.

Wear breathable fabrics

Wearing the right fabric is essential when it comes to keeping gym clothes from smelling. Even if you wash the clothes properly, sweaty, synthetic fabrics will trap the bacteria and create an unpleasant smell. Therefore, it is important to choose fabrics that are breathable and allow humidity to escape easily. The best fabrics for gym wear include natural fibers like wool or cotton, which naturally aid in moisture management. The good thing about these materials is that they also provide a much higher level of comfort.

Synthetic materials like polyester are not ideal for odor prevention, but their main appeal lies in their stretchiness and quick-dry nature — particularly useful after a long workout session. If you prefer these kinds of fabrics, look for those with special anti-odor properties that control bacteria growth. Ultimately, your goal should be to find the most breathable fabric that can also wick away sweat quickly so that it does not sit on the skin for too long and cause bad odors.

Wash workout clothes after each use

It is essential to wash your workout clothes after each use. Exercise sweat contains bacteria which can cause clothes to start to smell bad if left unwashed for too long. To prevent odors from building up, wash your items as soon as possible after they come off your body. Choose a detergent that is specifically designed for workout and exercise clothing, these are more likely to be effective at removing unpleasant odors. You can add a mild fabric softener if you want, but it isn’t necessary or recommended.

In addition to washing your clothes promptly it is important not to leave them in the washer or sit in piles once they’re clean. Immediately hang or lay them flat and allow them to air dry completely before storing them away in a drawer or closet. When allowing them to dry keep an eye on the color of the fabric, fade-resistant workout clothes may run if left out too long in direct sunlight.

Use an antibacterial detergent

Using an antibacterial detergent is a key way of preventing smelly workout clothes. Antibacterial detergents contain enzymes that help to break down sweat and body oils, which helps eliminate smelly bacteria. For the most effective results, look for a detergent that contains silver nanoparticles, which are antibacterials that are proven to be effective at reducing odor-causing bacteria. This type of detergent should be used immediately after working out in order to prevent the accumulation of odors from sweat and body oils left behind from exercise. Additionally, you can use this type of detergent for any clothing that is exposed to moisture and sweat, such as socks and underwear.

How to Remove Odors from Workout Clothes

Workout clothes are a must-have for any fitness enthusiast, but they can develop an unpleasant odor after a few wears. There are a few simple techniques you can use to remove odors from your favorite workout clothes. In this section, we will go over the best ways to get rid of the odor and keep your clothes smelling fresh and clean.

Soak clothes in a vinegar solution

To remove bad odors from workout clothes, soaking them in a vinegar solution is often the most effective method. Vinegar is a natural deodorizing agent that can help to eliminate even deep-rooted odors. To make the vinegar solution, mix 1 cup (240 ml) of distilled white vinegar with 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of cold water. Soak clothes for at least an hour before washing them as usual. This will help to neutralize any residual odors and may also help to reduce or prevent bacteria growth on the fabric. For particularly stubborn odors, you may have to increase the ratio of vinegar in the solution or lengthen soak time up to 24 hours before laundering as normal. Once washed, hang garments outdoors or in a well-ventilated area so they can air out and completely dry before being stored away. The freshness and longevity of your clothing depend upon how thoroughly these steps are followed; regular maintenance will result in better odor removal results each time!

Use a baking soda solution

Removing odors from clothing after a sweaty workout is important for keeping both the fabric and yourself fresh. Using a baking soda solution is an effective and budget-friendly way to deodorize your clothes and eliminate unpleasant smells.

To make your own deodorizing solution, begin by filling a bucket with hot water. Next, add two tablespoons of baking soda to the bucket of water and dissolve it completely. Soak the clothes in the baking soda solution for at least an hour, or longer if necesssary, stirring occasionally to evenly distribute the baking soda throughout the water. Once done, gently wring out the excess water and hang up or lay out your clothing to air dry. It’s preferable that you don’t put them into the dryer since exposing them to high temperatures can cause odors to become more persistent over time; hang drying or laying flat allows them to dry naturally while still allowing fresh air in. Afterward, you should find that even stubborn odors have been eliminated!

Use a commercial odor remover

Using a commercial odor remover is an easy and effective way to remove odors from workout clothes. Following the instructions on the product label, add the solution to a bucket of water and allow your workout clothes to soak for several hours. This will help eliminate any stubborn odors, such as sweat and body orders, that may have built up over time. After an adequate soaking period, rinse your workout clothes in cold water thoroughly before drying on a low heat setting in the dryer. This process should remove any remaining odors while helping keep your workout clothing free from any bacteria or mold growth.

Tips for Dealing with Smelly Workout Clothes

Working out can leave us with smelly and sweaty clothes, which can be very unpleasant to deal with. Fortunately, there are a number of tips you can use to deal with smelly workout clothes. These tips include leaving your clothes to air dry, using a detergent specifically designed for workout clothes, and more. Let’s dive into these tips in more detail.

Invest in quality workout clothes

Investing in quality workout clothes can help to reduce the amount of odor that your clothes hold onto. Look for items made with breathable fabric, such as cotton or synthetic blends, and products that have anti-odor treatments. These treatments help to reduce smells and can be used on all types of clothing, meaning they are not just limited to activewear. Additionally, look for items that wick away moisture so you can stay dry even after long sweaty workouts. This will also help to limit the growth of bacteria on your body, which contributes heavily to smelly workout clothing.

Air out your clothes after each wear

To fight the smell of sweat, make sure that your workout clothes are completely aired out after each use. Remove your gear immediately following your workout and hang them up to dry in a well-ventilated area. Natural drying helps circulate oxygen around the clothes and eliminate odors while also preventing mildew growth on the fabric fibers. If you need to cut down on the washing cycle frequency, you can leave them to air out for a few hours before returning them to your gym bag or drawer without compromising hygiene levels. Always remember to store your gear in a dry place away from wet surfaces as excess moisture can cause bacteria and mold growth leading to unsanitary conditions.

Use a deodorizing spray on your clothes

To effectively prevent or reduce the smell of your workout clothes, you can use a deodorizing spray. Deodorizing sprays contain natural enzymes and baking soda which work together to neutralize odors and leave garments feeling fresh. Make sure to always read the instructions on the product label before use, as directions may vary from product to product. Additionally, be sure to properly air out clothing after use every time and apply another squirt of deodorizing spray before garment storage. This will help keep clothes smelling fresh in between washes, so you won’t have to worry about foul-smelling outfits even if you don’t have time to do a full load of laundry often.

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