How To Get The Smell Out Of Workout Clothes: 7 Hacks

I picked up my favorite workout shirt this morning and thought, P.U., that is not nice. Most of us who work out have had this experience. Even if you wash your workout clothes regularly, they eventually get that lingering sweaty smell that you can’t seem to wash out. 

Before I knew how to wash workout clothes properly, I would end up tossing perfectly good gear because I couldn’t get the smell out. And I know from talking to my friends that they’ve done this as well. 

But now that I’m a professional cleaner, I know how to get the smell out of workout clothes, and I’m going to share that with you today. And if you work out at home or in the gym, be sure to check out my blogs on cleaning your workout clothes and sanitizing your workout gear. And if your regular laundry isn’t smelling too fresh, check out Smelly Washing? Here’s How to Easily Fix Stinky Laundry.

Melissa Maker loading laundry machine

1. Don’t Toss Workout Clothes in the Hamper

You just came home from a run, and all you want to do is take a shower and drink a protein shake. Or if you’re like me, all you want to do is take a shower and eat a cupcake. No matter your choice of post-workout fuel, don’t toss your clothes in the laundry hamper right away. 

If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can wash your gear right away to get all that fresh sweat out of your clothes as quickly as possible. But let’s be real, none of us are going to do that after every workout. What you should do is hang your clothes up before putting them into the hamper. Let your clothes air out and let the sweat dry to avoid smell and mold growth. 

2. Turn Them Inside Out 

Your clothes themselves aren’t smelly, you are! Well, your sweat and skin cells are. Odor-causing bacteria come from body oil, sweat, and skin cells that transfer from us to our clothes. 

If you turn your workout gear inside out to hang dry and to wash, you’re helping the water and detergent access the source of the smell (your sweat) and wash it away. 

3. Presoak Workout Clothes in Vinegar

Vinegar is probably my favorite natural cleaning ingredient. There are so many ways to clean with vinegar, and one of them is for your workout clothes. After your clothes have dried and before you put them in the laundry, fill your sink with one part vinegar and five parts water. 

Soak your workout gear in this vinegar solution for 30 minutes, and then throw it in the wash right away. And don’t worry, the vinegar smell isn’t strong enough to linger after you’ve washed with detergent. 

4. Laundry Detergent for Workout Clothes

It’s easy to add too much detergent to any load of laundry. What some people do when they notice their clothes smell is that they add more detergent. Or they’ll throw in some fabric softener. But too much detergent and any fabric softener will likely leave residue on your absorbent workout clothes without actually helping the smell. 

A vinegar presoak should be enough to eliminate smells, but if you didn’t do this, add a little vinegar to your laundry. Read the instructions on your detergent and follow them. You can choose a detergent specifically made for workout gear, although I’ve found vinegar plus regular laundry detergent works for me. 

Pouring laundry detergent

5. Wash After Every Wear

Sometimes it’s easier to get a sneaky re-wear out of your workout gear before you wash them. And I totally get this; laundry is a drag! But to keep your workout gear smelling fresh, you should really be washing them after every workout. This is especially true if your workout is high intensity, meaning you’re sweating a lot. 

Workout gear is absorbent, so even if you hang your clothing between workouts, all that sweat and bacteria is still inside the fiber of your clothes. Plus, not re-wearing your gear is a nice excuse to buy a few more pairs of leggings!

6. Wash In Hot Water

If you want to beat bacteria and get your clothes smelling and feeling clean, you should be washing in hot water. Unless your workout clothing tags say otherwise, hot water is the absolute best way to eliminate germs and bacteria. 

Have you ever boiled water to drink on a camping trip? Or maybe you’ve seen someone in a movie doing it. Either way, the science is the same. Hot water kills bacteria, so run your sweaty workout gear through a hot wash. 

7. Ditch the Dryer

I know I just told you hot = bacteria killer, but save the heat for the washing machine. Did you know that the sun’s U.V. rays actually kill bacteria too? So hanging your workout gear to dry naturally in the sun will help you eliminate bacteria, and fresh air will keep your gear smelling good. 

Plus, air-drying helps your workout clothing maintain its shape. This is especially true for leggings and exercise bras. And it’s less rough on your clothing, meaning it will last longer. Finally, it’s better for the environment, so everybody wins. 

Melissa Maker hanging laundry

Stink Begone!: How To Wash Workout Clothes

I know that whether I’m at a yoga class or sipping coffee with a friend, a gross whiff of my gym clothes does not make me feel good. So I hope my tips help you be the freshest-smelling gym rat at your gym or in your home.

And remember, nobody’s perfect. So if you slip up and wear your gym clothes twice in a row, don’t sweat it (literally)! Just give them a vinegar soak later and move on with your life. 

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.


  1. Thank you for your great tips! Your cleaning instructions are always excellent and well-explained. You will want to update this one to read “7 Hacks…” because there are two numbers 4.


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