Why Do Workout Shirts Stink?

Why do workout shirts stink? It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves at one point or another. And while there’s no one definitive answer, there are a few factors that can contribute to the issue. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the possible reasons why your workout shirts might be stinking up the joint. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find a solution to the problem!


There’s nothing worse than coming back from a workout and realising that your clothes stink. You may have worked hard and pushed yourself to the limit, but the smell of your gym clothes can be enough to put you off going again. So why exactly do workout shirts stink, and what can you do to keep them smelling fresh? In this article, we’ll cover these questions in detail and discuss how you can combat this problem.

Definition of “workout shirt”

A workout shirt is a type of athletic clothing that is designed to wick away sweat and be lightweight. Usually made from synthetic materials such as polyester, spandex and nylon, the purpose of a workout shirt is to improve athletic performance by allowing for more range of motion during physical activity. Most workout shirts also feature odor-resistant treatments which help reduce the build-up of bacteria and keep the wearer feeling fresh even after long workouts. While synthetic materials are excellent at wicking away moisture and reducing smells, they can also be prone to acquiring odors over time which can be difficult to get rid of. Keep reading for useful tips on how to keep your workout shirts smelling fresh for longer.

Causes of Smell

Have you ever noticed that after a long workout session your shirt can start to smell rather unpleasant? This is because there are several factors that can cause a workout shirt to develop an odor. These include sweat, bacteria, body oils, and fabric materials used in the shirt. In this article, we’ll be discussing the causes of smell in workout shirts and what you can do to reduce them.


The primary cause of those nasty smells in your workout shirt is bacteria. During exercise, you sweat and this sweat is composed mostly of water with small traces of other compounds such as salt and lactic acid. This moisture creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, a key factor in creating that “workout smell” you know so well.

When your body temperature rises during exercise, the sweat glands produce more sweat to cool your body down — this process allows bacteria to grow and spread rapidly on the fabric of your shirt. Feeding on the salt and cellular debris found in sweat, these microscopic creatures then create unpleasant odors that have become synonymous with sweaty gym clothes. The good news is, there are a few ways you can reduce this effect.

Regularly washing workout clothes in hot water helps to kill both odor-causing bacteria and their waste products, which will keep them from spreading and producing odors faster than they can be cleaned away. You can also treat your laundering routine with special odor-eliminating cleaners designed specifically for athletic gear or even air drying pieces after each use rather than chancing it without proper cleaning first. Following these simple measures will help to keep your workout shirts smelling fresh!


Sweat consists primarily of 99 percent water and one-percent minerals and various organic compounds. But it’s the combination of sweat and bacteria on our skin — especially in armpits, where sweat is most abundant — that creates that not-so-fresh smell we all recognize.

The human body has two types of sweat glands; eccrine glands, primarily located at the forehead, palms and feet which produce a colorless liquid made up mostly of water and salt; as well as apocrine glands located solely in the armpits. Apocrine glands produce a thicker, oily sweat made up primarily of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and other elements that create an ideal environment for bacteria growth. And when bacteria interact with sweat on your skin it’s natural to experience a smelly odor.

The exact origin and content of these odors may vary from person to person depending on diet and many other factors including the population size of their particular population of underarm microbes. Additionally, certain stressors can produce additional chemical compounds that add complexity to each individual’s unique odor – meaning although all people tend to have similar ‘workout shirt smells’ no two workout shirts are quite the same!


Fabric type plays a major role in how sweet or sour your post-workout shirt smells. Not all materials are made equal when it comes to odor-absorption. Natural fabrics such as cotton, linen and natural fibers like wool, tend to resist against odor-causing bacteria more so than synthetic materials like polyester and nylon. Synthetics are used often in activewear because they tend to wick sweat away from the body more quickly than cotton, the most popular fabric for activewear. Cotton is still a favorite fabric among athletes however because of its breathability and softness.

When shopping for workout clothes make sure to look at the tag and check what fabrics it’s made of — if you opt for synthetic materials make sure they don’t trap in too much moisture or heat which can cause bacteria to grow faster than in natural fibers. Avoid tops with spandex or any other type of tight stretchy material, as these hold onto sweat the most creating an ideal environment for smelly bacteria growth. Look for tops with ventilation designs such as mesh panels which will allow air flow during your workout session helping eliminate smelly bacteria buildup on your surfaces.


If your workout shirts are starting to smell, chances are you’re looking for a solution. Whether it’s odour caused by sweat, bacteria, or something else, there are a few ways to tackle this issue. In this section, we’ll cover some of the best solutions for getting rid of the odour that your workout shirts produce. From detergents to UV-C light technology, we’ll go over it all.

Pre-treating with baking soda

Pre-treating workout clothes with baking soda is a simple, yet effective way to reduce the smell they accumulate while you exercise. Baking soda is a versatile substance that can remove odors from all types of fabrics, including popular workout materials such as synthetic and cotton. When added to laundry detergent when pre-soaking and washing your clothes, baking soda helps to reduce sweat odor caused by bacteria growth. To pre-treat your workout clothing items with baking soda, follow these steps:

1. Fill a bucket or basin with 1 gallon of warm water and 1/2 cup of baking soda;
2. Place the items into the water and stir them gently;
3. Allow the clothing items to soak for 2-4 hours;
4. Remove and drain them from the pre-treatment solution;
5. Rinse off any remaining residue with cold water; and
6. Wash them as usual in a machine using a designated sportswear laundry detergent or just cold water and white vinegar for sensitive material types (like wool).

Washing with vinegar

Washing with vinegar is an effective way to help keep your workout shirts smelling their best. Doing so serves several functions, and understanding why vinegar works can make all the difference.

Vinegar is an all-natural and effective sanitizer that helps remove sweat, dirt, and body oils from fabrics that regular detergent may leave behind. It helps break down odor-causing bacteria, which removes any smelly residue. Vinegar’s mildly acidic pH neutralizes alkaline sweat, helping to reduce dryness and other potential skin irritations caused by sweat build up. Additionally, it also helps prevent any deep-set stains from developing on your shirts after multiple washings.

To get the most effectiveness from washing with vinegar in terms of smell prevention you should use a solution ratio of one part vinegar to four parts water when pre-soaking or laundering your workout shirts. Vinegar does have a strong smell itself but it will dissipate as the garment dries leaving significantly less odor than before washing them with just detergent. If you are particularly sensitive to smells then either use white distilled or apple cider vinegar as both will leave minimal scent but still provide the desired cleaning results that you want in a pre-soak or laundry cycle without doing harm to the fabric fibers or garments’ color dyes.

Using a deodorizing spray

Using a deodorizing spray is an effective, affordable way to keep your workout shirts smelling fresh. Most household deodorizers can be used directly on clothing and they are usually safe for all fabrics. Spraying the entire shirt with a light layer of the product is recommended to ensure maximum odor control. The scent should linger for a few hours, so you don’t have to worry about reapplying it during your workout.

It is important to remember that using a deodorant spray may not completely eliminate body odors but instead mask them with a pleasant smell. It is also important to note that using too much of any product can damage the fabric or cause discoloration, so it’s best to treat only the underarm area or areas that are heavily saturated with sweat or body odor. If you find that one application isn’t enough and you need something stronger, try looking for products formulated specifically for use on sports apparel as they usually not only cover odor but help eliminate bacteria and mold growth in fabrics as well.


Working out is an important part of staying healthy and fit, but it also creates a lot of sweat and funk. A workout shirt can quickly become smelly and unhygienic if not cared for properly. While some of the odor can be avoided with proper care, it is impossible to completely get rid of the smell. In this article, we will discuss the reasons why workout shirts can get smelly and how to best care for them.

Summary of causes and solutions

Workout clothes often have a problem with persistent odors, but thankfully, it is possible to address this issue. The main causes of the smell are sweat, bacteria, and residual detergent on the fabric. Sweat creates an ideal conditions for bacteria growth on polyester material and can easily accumulate if your shirt isn’t washed quickly after a workout. To combat this, it is important to ensure that your clothing is washed in hot water with detergent specifically designed to eliminate odors, and to avoid using fabric softeners as they can leave residue on the clothing. Additionally, you should also look into specially formulated athletic clothing made from technical fabric that helps to wick away moisture and reduce odor-causing bacteria buildup. With a few simple steps, you can keep your workout gear smelling fresh and looking stylish no matter how hard you train!

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