There’s nothing like a rigorous workout for blowing away the cobwebs and re-energizing. But while those sweaty gym clothes always get washed afterwards, can you say the same about your gym bag?
Most of us rarely think about cleaning the bag in which we store our dirty gym clothes. But this is a mistake. As well as the inevitable odour that will eventually develop, you should also be concerned about the bacteria that are thriving inside your bag.
But forget about the hygiene issues for a moment. There are other reasons why cleaning your gym bag regularly is essential. Firstly, you probably don’t want your fellow gym-goers to get a whiff of what you’re carrying.
Secondly, there’s the issue of motivation to think about. If your bag smells like the gym — and your sweaty self — it probably brings back unwanted memories. Those days when you couldn’t lift your legs in the changing rooms after a strenuous workout. Just picking up your back and smelling it might be enough to put you off working out forever.
The good news is that keeping your bag clean doesn’t have to be hard work. You can keep nasty odours and bacteria at bay with just a few changes to your habits — along with a cleaning schedule.
We’ve compiled a list of tips that should help you to keep your own bag in great condition.
Start with prevention
The best way to keep your gym bag clean is to ensure it never gets dirty in the first place. This, of course, isn’t easy. After all, your bag comes into regular contact with sweat, bacteria and many other forms of nastiness on a regular basis.
Before you head out for your workout, put a couple of reusable plastic bags in your gym bag. When you’re getting changed after your workout, place your sweaty gym gear in the plastic bags — and tie them shut.
If you do this after every session, your bag should never come into direct contact with dirty clothes. Just remember to clean your plastic bags regularly.
If you’d rather not use plastic bags, there are some very good gym bag organisers on the market. They’re designed for this very purpose, and look a lot better than a bashed-up supermarket bag. These organisers are often treated with anti-microbial substances, which kills germs and prevent bad odours.
It’s also a good idea to invest in a shoe bag. Or if you’re about to buy a new gym bag, choose one with a dedicated shoe compartment. Sweaty trainers get notoriously smelly, and they’re often riddled with bacteria. Keep them wrapped up and away from everything else.
Unpack your bag the right way
The temptation for many people after returning home from the gym is to simply throw their gym bag in a corner. People say to themselves “I’ll sort that out later”. But in many cases, later means the next time they need the bag.
The longer you leave dirty, sweaty gym gear in your bag, the more time bacteria has to multiply. These warm, damp conditions are perfect for germs, and it’s not usually long before you have a serious problem to address. Not only that, dampness combined with a lack of ventilation is the perfect recipe for mould growth.
The moment you get back home from a workout, carefully empty your bag. Place your dirty items in the laundry immediately, and spray the bag with an antibacterial agent (there are some designed for this very purpose).
Keep hygiene products separate
Even if you take the precautions listed above, there are bound to be bacteria, dirt, and bad odours in your gym bag. The worst thing you can do is get any of this nastiness on your hygiene products. For example, if you have a loose bottle of shower gel in your bag, you might end up spreading bacteria all over your skin. The same goes for deodorants, skin creams, lotions and anything else in there.
Always pack a separate toiletries bag before you head to the gym. And make sure you wash the bag at least once a week. Also, choose a toiletries bag that’s waterproof and easy to clean. If you never want to rest the bag on a greasy surface in the gym’s changing rooms, buy one that can be hung up.
Keep your water bottle clean
If you’re someone who likes to protect the environment, the chances are you’re already using a reusable bottle. And that’s great. But don’t forget that the average water bottle is teeming with bacteria. Unless you’re cleaning your bottle after every use, germs could become a big problem. Not only will they be transferred to your bag, but they could also put your health at risk.
The moment you return from your workout, empty your bag — and wash your bottle thoroughly. The easiest way to do this is to put in a dishwasher. This should kill almost all the bacteria and ensure mould never becomes a problem.
Clean your bag regularly
Even if you implement all of the tips listed above, your gym bag is still going to get dirty from time to time. Commit to cleaning it at least once a month — don’t wait for the smell to get the better of you.
A great way to stay on top of the situation is to carry a pack of antibacterial wipes in your bag at all times. Just before you pack your bag for a trip to the gym, give the interior a quick wipe-down with the wipes.
As for washing your bag, you have several options. If it’s made from canvas, there’s a good chance you can simply throw it in your washing machine. However, always check the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions before doing so. Just be sure to wash it in cold water, as hot water can shrink the fabric.
If your gym bag is made with different materials, you may have to wash it by hand. But don’t despair, as the process is pretty straightforward. Create a solution of water, white vinegar and dishwashing liquid. Wipe all the surfaces down with a sponge. Rinse the sponge to remove the solution, then wipe down your bag again.
It is vital that you leave your bag to dry before using it again. Open up all of its compartments, and leave it outside to air-dry. If you don’t dry your bag properly, you could end up with a serious mould problem later.
Alternatively, it’s possible to clean some gym bags with steam. Using a handheld steam cleaner, fire a jet of superheated steam at all the surfaces, seams and openings. Steam removes dirt and grease with ease, but it also kills nearly 100 percent of harmful bacteria. One of the advantages of this approach is that the latest cleaners use a minimal amount of water. As a result, your bag won’t be completely drenched afterwards.
And you can always buy a dedicated gym bag with detachable pockets, sacs, toiletry bags and laundry compartments. These separate areas stop dirt, grease, sweat and bacteria from spreading — making the cleaning process a great deal easier.
Don’t let your gym bag become dirty and germ-ridden. Regular cleaning and a few preventative steps should be enough to keep your gym gear fresh, clean and presentable.