How to Remove Odor from Gym Clothes: 5 Easy Hacks

Fact: gym clothes can smell after washing. This is usually caused by fabric softeners on gym clothes or workout clothes made from fabrics that retain bacteria.

In this article, we’ll explore why gym clothes still smell after washing and how to remove odor from gym clothes.

How to Remove Odor from Gym Clothes 5 Easy Hacks

Why gym clothes still smell after washing them

In 2014, researchers from a Belgian university, the University of Ghent, investigated how germs grow and how odor develops in cotton and polyester fabrics [1].

Researchers collected 26 T-shirts from healthy individuals after an intense indoor cycling class.

Researchers collected 26 T-shirts from healthy individuals after an intense indoor cycling class.

After 28 hours, the workout clothes were analyzed, and the scientists found that the stinky bacteria, Micrococci, thrived on the polyester fabrics but not so much on the cotton ones.

T-shirts made from polyester had a stronger odor. This study discovered that the type of fabric in clothes affects how bacteria grow on them, which can lead to bad smells.

This brings us to why some exercise clothes smell bad.

Polyester is one of the dominant fabrics that workout clothes are made out of. Polyester fabrics wick away moisture, which is good because you don’t want to be drenched in sweat during exercise.

The downside of moisture-wicking fabrics is that they don’t absorb water. This presents a problem when they need washing.

Polyester fabrics will always repel the water because they’re designed to do just that.


Why gym clothes still smell after washing them

Essential reading: 

How to remove odor from gym clothes

Now that we understand that most of the time, smelly activewear has nothing to do with personal hygiene, it’s time to discuss how to remove odor from gym clothes.

1. Air out the dirty laundry

The first step to removing odor from gym clothes is ensuring that you air out the dirty clothes as soon as you take them off.


How to remove odor from gym clothes -Air out the dirty laundry

Don’t keep your dirty clothes in the gym bag or toss them in the laundry basket immediately after a workout.

As soon as you take off your gym clothes, air them out by hanging them on the washing line for a while. This step will allow the air to flow through the fabric fibers and save you from further smells.

Related: Best Tips for Gym Beginners

2. Don’t use fabric softeners on gym clothes

Fabric softeners leave residue on your gym clothes. The residue impacts the clothes’ ability to wick moisture away.

The waxy coating that fabric softener leaves makes it easy for the musty smells to be locked in, causing gym clothes to smell after washing.


How to remove odor from gym clothes -Don’t use fabric softeners on gym clothes

*This post may include affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.

3. Use baking soda

Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) is a multipurpose miracle product for eliminating odors, household cleaning, and baking.

Always take note that there’s a difference between baking soda and baking powder. Baking soda is used for cleaning, while baking powder is for baking.

Baking soda is non-toxic and contains particles that absorb smells or dissolve dirt without damaging your clothes or household items.

How to remove odor from gym clothes with baking soda

To ensure that gym clothes don’t smell after washing, add a cup of baking soda to the water, let it soak for an hour, and then wash as you normally would. Remember not to use fabric softener.

Alternatively, mix baking soda and water to make a thick paste. Spread the paste on the stinky areas of your workout clothes, such as the armpit. Leave the paste on for up to 15 minutes, then wash. Voila, that stubborn smell will be gone.


How to remove odor from gym clothes with baking soda

4. Use white vinegar

Your activewear will always smell fresh once you discover just how great white vinegar works to remove odor from gym clothes.

How to remove odor from gym clothes using white vinegar

All you have to do is mix water and a quarter to half a cup of white vinegar, let the clothes soak for 20–30 minutes, wring them out, and then wash them as normal.

You can do this in a bucket or washing machine. Vinegar works like a charm to eliminate odors, plus it doesn’t leave any residue behind.

If you are too lazy or pressed for time to soak the clothes, you can add vinegar to your wash with your regular detergent.

5. Use detergents that are formulated for workout clothes

You can also use detergents that are specially formulated for activewear, such as Nathan Sport-Wash, Win Sports Detergent, or Tide Plus Febreze Freshness Sport.

Always remember to wash your workout clothes inside out and never put them in the dryer.


[1] Callewaert, C., De Maeseneire, E., Kerckhof, F. M., Verliefde, A., Van de Wiele, T., & Boon, N. (2014). Microbial odor profile of polyester and cotton clothes after a fitness session. Applied and environmental microbiology, 80(21), 6611–6619.

how to remove odor from gym clothes

Similar Posts


  1. These are some great tips – it is amazing all the different things you can do with baking soda I have to admit I hadn’t thought of using it on clothing though, great idea!

  2. I would suggest having a couple of different gym bags so one can be washed and air out while using the other one. These are all great tips for keeping that smell away.

  3. I’m going to try these tips. I jog daily and I live in Texas, so the clothes I jog in REEK. You can still smell the sweat even after washing, which is gross. So thank you for this post!

  4. I had no idea fabric softer keeps the smell in it. I definitely will stop washing with fabric softener. I hope that this will help with the smell I have in my kiddos clothes.

  5. I actually prefer cotton clothes, even though they get sweaty. I wash a lot of stuff in very hot water in my utility sink with dawn dish soap before putting in the wash. It’s good to know some other things to use like baking soda and vinegar.

  6. It’s interesting to know how baking soda helps to get rid of the smell in gym clothes. I think even on those regular everyday clothes that are made of polyester, this can help.

  7. My daughters used to play soccer and they always forgot to take their practice clothes out of their gym bags. Those socks and shin guards smell were awful if only I had this post back then,

  8. This is so helpful. my oldest has the worst smelling gym clothes and THEN i just get them back smelling flowery because lets face it nothing else works. i’ll try your tips!

  9. Oh! I’ve had this problem when leaving stuff inside my gym bag for too long. Especially towels. Good info to know!

  10. Wow! This ideas are definitely a great help! Never know about the other hacks and I am glad I came over this post. Thanks for this! Time to say bye to that musty smells.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *