By Emma Stessman
Finding the perfect pair of leggings—the ones that make you feel super confident and keep you dry during a sweaty workout—is no small task. So when you find workout apparel you love, you want to make sure it lasts longer than just a couple of wears (especially given how pricey it can be).
Washing things the right way can really help, since between HIIT sessions and lazy Sundays, you might be wearing your fave leggings and sports bra more than anything else in your closet (which means you’re washing them a lot… we hope!).
We compiled all the info you need to wash your go-to workout gear with a little more TLC—so it lasts longer and stays smelling super fresh.
How to Wash Your Workout Clothes
Bad news for those prone to flinging their wet, balled-up leggings into the hamper immediately after a workout: Experts at Rinse told Who What Wear that doing so can create mold and mildew. Instead, hang them up to dry before you add them to the laundry pile.
Then, when it’s time to wash them, follow these dos and don’ts: Don’t use the dryer, as it can weaken the fabric (that’s why your leggings are suddenly see-through). When it’s warm enough, hang your leggings outside in the sun to dry; the UV-rays can kill bacteria the washing machine might have missed. Also, skip the fabric softener; it can cause the breathability and sweat-wicking potential of the leggings to weaken.
While hanging out in your sports bra after a sweat sesh might feel necessary for recovery, your sweat can actually break down the fabric and cause the band to stretch out. That’s why Bloom Bras suggests taking your bra off ASAP (which tbh, can be a pretty freeing feeling). Ideally, you should be handwashing your sports bras by gently rinsing with soap under the tap. If that’s not possible and you’re going to throw them in the washing machine, set it to the delicate cycle. Just like with leggings, sports bras maintain their shape and stretchiness best when air-dried.
According to the folks at Asics, putting your shoes in the washer or dryer is a total no-go, since it can damage the fabric and make the shoes lose their shape. Instead, wash them by hand using a bucket filled with warm water (or your sink) and a soft scrub brush or toothbrush. Letting your shoes soak for a long period of time can also be pretty damaging, so simply dip and rinse the brush in the water as you’re cleaning, instead of putting the shoes directly into the water.
Before you start, wipe off any excess dirt or mud from your latest trail run with a paper towel, and remove the insoles and shoelaces. Start with the bottom of the shoes, and then make your way up, scrubbing gently and rinsing your brush as you go. Use the same strategy for cleaning the insoles, and scrub the laces under running water.
Once everything’s clean, stuff paper towels inside the shoes to absorb excess moisture, and let all the parts air dry. Unlike your leggings, however, don’t put them in direct sunlight.
While this a time-consuming process, your shoes likely won’t need a full clean that often. If they’re simply getting a little ripe, Jillee of One Good Thing suggests adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil to some baking soda and sprinkling the powder into the shoes. Leave overnight and dump out any excess in the morning for a quick refresh.
Yes, your gym bag needs a little love too. The nice thing is, many bags are washable so you can throw them right in the machine. For a more intense clean, try adding some white vinegar to the rinse. Another trick to try for a fresher smell when you forget to throw it in with the load: Place a few tea bags in your bag overnight, then take them out in the morning. And remember, let that thing air out every once and a while, sans sweaty apparel.