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Why do my exercise clothes never seem to get clean?


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So frustrated by this.  Shirts in particular.  Help me find where the problem might lie!  

I run, sweat (the shirt isn’t ever soaked, esp these months of the year, but sometimes a bit more than others).  Throw it in the wash, sometimes that same day, sometimes some days later, depends on when I do laundry.  Comes out smelling clean (as far as my nose can tell).  But then, almost AS SOON AS I PUT IT ON an start my body warming up it stinks again in the armpits.  I’m fed up with being stinky.  Another clue is sometimes just my regular shirts tend towards this too.... just not to same extent.  Is the answer:

1. Suck it up, everyone’s exercise shirts stink, its just the way of life.

2. Change your deodorant (I do do this at times, but prefer more natural ones).

3. You’re just a stinky person and out of luck (I don’t think I generally am?...)

4. Get a new washing machine.

5. Get a different laundry detergent (usually use Arm and Hammar Clear and Clean or whatever it is called but currently have Purex as it was on sale) or add something else to your laundry process.

6. Something else I’m not thinking of?  

 

Help a girl out!

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Our clothes can get pretty sweaty/stinky and  never stink after washing.  I buy 100% cotton, do not use fabric softener, use Persil laundry detergent, and have a top loader with an agitator that is not a water saving model.

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This is so typical. Tide makes a product called Odor Rescue. Once in a blue moon I wash all our running clothes in that. I dislike scented detergents, and that stuff has a strong scent, but it fades in a wash or two. Despite the "clean scent", this stuff seems to help the odor issue for a while.

Another thing that works for me is to wash all my running shirts and bras in hot and then send the shirts through the dryer with the rest of the white load. It seems like you shouldn't dry the shirts, but I think the heat helps and it is better than dealing with the smell (and the shirts have held up surprisingly well). I still air dry the bras, but that hasn't been such an issue.

I'm pretty sure it is bacteria that cause this issue, so you might be able to get some relief with a vinegar soak before washing. 

 

Good luck!

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You need to use a small amount of PineSol in your wash (my choice for getting stink out) or use a laundry detergent designed for athletic/sports clothing.

For DS23's very stinky laundry (he ran track and cross country throughout high school) a bit of PineSol along with my regular detergent (Tide or Persil, usually) worked wonders. PineSol is an anti bacterial.

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It's bacteria or fungus.

Two of us make lots of stinky clothes. I do a few drops of tea tree oil in addition to the detergent (Charlie's). And be sure to dry the clothes not long after they finish washing.

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I've experienced exactly what you described.  I did two things to stop it, but it will require some money.  I started using exercise clothing from Athleta marked UNSTINKABLE.  It absolutely works.  For my non-Athleta clothing, I started to soak the clothing in a vinegar wash.  It did the trick, but it requires retreatment every few washes.  Athleta is expensive, but there are frequent sales and the quality is awesome.  

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I am guessing that your workout clothes are made of synthetic material? It’s bacteria or fungus. I either use a scoop of oxyclean or I use Bac-Out (a liquid enzyme). Both will resolve that for me.

You might also try wiping your armpits with some apple cider vinegar for a few days just before showering. 😉

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32 minutes ago, Pawz4me said:

You need to use a small amount of PineSol in your wash (my choice for getting stink out) or use a laundry detergent designed for athletic/sports clothing.

For DS23's very stinky laundry (he ran track and cross country throughout high school) a bit of PineSol along with my regular detergent (Tide or Persil, usually) worked wonders. PineSol is an anti bacterial.

 

28 minutes ago, G5052 said:

It's bacteria or fungus.

Two of us make lots of stinky clothes. I do a few drops of tea tree oil in addition to the detergent (Charlie's). And be sure to dry the clothes not long after they finish washing.

Not OP, but how do you add tea tree oil or pine sol to your load? I have a front loader. Does it go in the drum with the detergent pod? Or the fabric softener slot? Or bleach slot? I’ve got some campout smoke clothes that I’m going to try this on. I’ve washed them twice, with borax AND vinegar AND detergent and they still stink!

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6 minutes ago, mmasc said:

 

Not OP, but how do you add tea tree oil or pine sol to your load? I have a front loader. Does it go in the drum with the detergent pod? Or the fabric softener slot? Or bleach slot? I’ve got some campout smoke clothes that I’m going to try this on. I’ve washed them twice, with borax AND vinegar AND detergent and they still stink!

 

I had a front loader at our previous house, and I just put it in the bottom of the drum before I loaded in the clothes. Just be sure to wash right away. I nearly always wash with cold water.

Our current house has an older, traditional washing machine with an agitator, and I do the same there.

No stinky clothes for several years now, even with active people in a humid climate.

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Another detergent option for you is Molly's Suds All Sport.  I buy it for DS's laundry and it seems to work very well for him.  He sweats a TON when he works out, and doesn't do laundry frequently.  This seems to keep that funky smell out of his laundry.

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54 minutes ago, mmasc said:

 

Not OP, but how do you add tea tree oil or pine sol to your load? I have a front loader. Does it go in the drum with the detergent pod? Or the fabric softener slot? Or bleach slot? I’ve got some campout smoke clothes that I’m going to try this on. I’ve washed them twice, with borax AND vinegar AND detergent and they still stink!

Add it just like detergent. So if you have a slot for that you can put it there, along with liquid detergent if you're not using a pod. Otherwise put it in the drum, either before or after putting the clothes in. That's what I did with a front loader. I have a top loader now w/o a detergent dispenser, so the PineSol goes in the bottom of the drum along with the detergent, then I add the clothes.

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Keeping it natural:  vinegar in wash (or direct on problem clothing or drop problem clothes into a soaking pail with vinegar or tea tree or borax)    You need to get current whatever it is (bacteria or fungus probably) out of the clothes, so probably a good soak to start is important.  

Vinegar (if you don’t have sting issues and don’t mind smelling like salad),  coconut oil and or zinc oxide on armpits   — zinc oxide powder leaves white on clothing , but is quite amazing if that’s not a problem and doesn’t have an odor of its own  

help reduce smell causing bacteria and fungi IME 

a little less natural and especially if there’s fungus, or itch too, “medicated gold bond” can help too and can also help cover the odor pretty naturally — but can be a problem for odor sensitive people 

“Purely Northwest Foot and Body wash” (available via Amazon)  can also be a huge help even with getting rid of teen guy stinky feet type problems   Also has essential oils which could bevproblem for odor sensitive people 

Edited by Pen
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WIN Sports Detergent works well for us, when combined with a hot water soak. But what worked best of all was making sure my tween was wearing antiperspirant (actual antiperspirant, not just deodorant) every single day. If your natural deodorant isn't an antiperspirant, too, it might just be not cutting it.

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1. Purex doesn't work well. 

2. Use hot water

3. Use a small amount of bleach..doesn't take much. maybe a 1/4 cup? Even less maybe. Not enough that it bleaches the clothes, just enough to kill the germs. 

My husband has this issue with his shirts, mainly synthetic fabrics. The above gets rid of it. For maintenance in between bleaching I use Biz on his clothes, but every so often they need a run with bleach. 

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Actually, cold water typically works best on synthetics workout gear. It seems counter-intuitive, but there are some studies behind it.  

Also, as pp have mentioned---vinegar makes a good fabric softener. Its weak acidic properties help break up the body oils buildup trapping in the bacteria in place. Fabric softener smooths and traps those oils. 

Ideally, you should air dry also.

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After trying various special detergents I have started spraying hydrogen peroxide on the arm pits of my shirts as soon as I take them off. If the clothes are especially sweaty I’ll do a pre-wash with vinegar. I launder as usual with original Tide. 

I have not had any problems with the perioxide bleaching clothes but you may want to test them first. 

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Soak in vinegar, then wash without adding detergent. Rewash with a small amount of detergent - don't overdo it! - after this. That should solve most stinkiness problems. If not, redo this procedure but this time soak in baking soda instead of vinegar.

Never overdo the detergent, though. Very counterproductive. Also, make sure you always have chosen the right amount of water for the cycle - if you put a large load on a medium cycle, they wont' get clean enough. You'd think this was obvious but it doesn't always seem to be.

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22 hours ago, LuvToRead said:

Our clothes can get pretty sweaty/stinky and  never stink after washing.  I buy 100% cotton, do not use fabric softener, use Persil laundry detergent, and have a top loader with an agitator that is not a water saving model.

The bolded. I only wear cotton. Never have the problem, even after extensive hiking/climbing. My DS' synthetic workout clothes, OTOH, yikes.

Also, line dry outside.

Edited by regentrude
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On 5/4/2019 at 11:29 AM, regentrude said:

The bolded. I only wear cotton. Never have the problem, even after extensive hiking/climbing. My DS' synthetic workout clothes, OTOH, yikes.

Also, line dry outside.

The Cotton Kills message is pretty strong in Scotland - we were given quite a talk about it when we went on a map reading course run by Mountain Rescue.

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These answers amaze me - it seems like overkill to complete change your wash detergent or clothing!  

I simply keep a spray bottle of diluted laundry detergent (I use tide) next to my machine.  As I load the machine, I spray the underarm areas of the shirts of ‘odor offenders’ in the family as I place their shirts in the wash.

(I will add that, with this crazy water-efficient washer, I do smaller loads, and do the ‘fast (30 min) cycle’ since it didn’t clean any better on the ‘clothes (55 min) cycle’.)

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46 minutes ago, Familia said:

These answers amaze me - it seems like overkill to complete change your wash detergent or clothing!  

I think there's probably significant variation in stink between people and the causes of the stink, and that's why different people have come up with different solutions, and why the solutions some are posting won't work at all for others. I suspect that water hardness/softness probably plays a part in what works (or not), too. There are probably lots of factors at play. So I think it's a matter of everyone trying different things until they find what works for them. And counting yourself lucky when you do!

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