How to Keep Your Sports Kit Smelling Fresh 

Whether you prefer yoga, weight training, running in the fresh air or playing team sports, exercise is important to our mental and physical wellbeing – releasing endorphins that make us feel happy, as well as helping to keep our health in check.

But sweat, mud and dirt mean your sportswear needs regular and thorough cleaning to keep it free of unpleasant smells and stop the spread of bacteria.

What’s more, keeping your sports kit in good condition can extend its life and prevent you having to replace it as often.

1. Don’t leave worn kit longer than 3 days without washing

Karen Welch Ph.D, a senior scientist at US odour control company Microban, tells Runners World that you shouldn’t leave sweaty sports clothing in your washing basket any longer than three days, as the bacteria that causes kit to smell thrives in this damp, dark environment.

“When you have something that has moisture in it, you promote microbial growth. The longer they grow, the more odours they produce,” she says.

2. Cool wash most sports clothes

Sportswear is often made of lightweight synthetic materials, used for their high performance sweat-wicking and temperature regulating qualities.

High washing temperatures may weaken the fibres and cause them to become less effective. Washing with detergent at 30-40 degrees should be plenty. Always check care labels before washing.

3. Treat stains before washing

Sweat can stain clothing and turn white fabrics yellow. To prevent staining, rinse clothing’s underarm areas in cold water or dab with white vinegar before washing, then proceed as normal.

4. Avoid the tumble dryer

High temperatures can break down sportswear’s synthetic fibres, potentially reducing performance and elasticity. You’re also at risk of heating up any bacteria remaining in the clothing, causing unpleasant odours. Instead, leave to dry naturally – outside if the weather permits.

5. Not smelling fresh?

If regular detergent isn’t doing the trick to budge odours, dilute 5-6 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda in a sink full of cool water and soak your sports kit for 30 minutes before washing again in the machine. Bicarbonate of soda works to lower PH levels, helping to neutralise high-acidity causes of smells.

6. Don’t machine wash trainers

It might seem like a quick fix, but throwing sports shoes into the washing machine can damage technical fabric – and cause odours to get worse.

Let your trainers dry before brushing off mud and visible dirt, then sponge the outside with warm soapy water. Sprinkle baking soda inside to absorb odours, then pack them with newspaper or paper towels and leave to dry at room temperature.