How to Wash a Stinky Sports Jersey

Product Care

Use these tips to thoroughly clean a sports jersey after a sweaty game.

Last updated: May 11, 2022
4 min read
How to Wash a Sports Jersey Properly
Time Required
30 min
Estimated Cost


  • White vinegar
  • Laundry detergent
  • Baking soda


  • Clean, spare toothbrush

If you’ve ever put on a sports jersey you thought was clean, only to discover it’s still smelly from the last time you wore it, the cause is likely that odor-causing bacteria hasn’t been fully washed out. To avoid encountering that stale, unpleasant smell, follow these tips to properly wash a jersey.

First, Check the Care Instructions

Jerseys are often made from polyester or synthetic fabrics that are machine-washable, but some jerseys feature embroidered letters or numbers that require extra care. In general, when washing a sports jersey or other workout clothes, it’s best to use cold water and to avoid the dryer. However, be sure to check the label inside the garment to make sure you’re taking the proper steps to wash and dry.

RELATED: Here’s How You Can Get Sweat Stains Out of Shirts

How to Prep a Jersey Before Washing

  1. Turn it inside out. This makes it easier to wash out any oils or sweat that have invaded the surface of the clothing. Washing jerseys inside out also helps keep any iron-on letters or numbers from peeling off or fading in the machine. For added protection, put the inside-out jersey in a garment bag before washing.
  2. Wash in cold water and on a gentle cycle. Washing in cold water helps prevent fading, shrinking or damage to letters or numbers on the jersey.
  3. Avoid using fabric softener. Adding fabric softener can make it more difficult for the detergent to fully penetrate the fibers where the odors and bacteria may be trapped.

Using White Vinegar to Remove Stubborn Odors

If there’s a household staple to have on hand for deodorizing stinky gear, it’s white vinegar. This type of vinegar, which you may already have at home, can be used to clean just about anything around the house.

To use white vinegar to clean a jersey, take a cup of vinegar and pour it into the washing machine (or inside the bleach dispenser if the machine has one). Then add the laundry detergent, as you normally would. The acid in white vinegar is a powerhouse at removing odors from fabrics, and it doesn’t leave clothing smelling like vinegar.

If you have stubborn odors that don't disappear after using the vinegar-and-laundry-detergent method, add a half cup of baking soda directly onto the jersey after you’ve thrown it into the washing machine with the vinegar and detergent. Then, run the wash cycle.

How to Soak and Pretreat Stains

If there are grass stains, dirt or other grimey spots on the jersey, be sure to presoak the stain. Make a simple solution of white vinegar, water and baking soda. Mix 1 cup of water and 1 cup of vinegar together, then add in a tablespoon of baking soda. Allow the stained part of the jersey to soak in the mix for at least 30 minutes.

You can also use store-bought, presoak treatments to loosen up stains and odors. Whatever ingredient you choose for a presoak, it’s best to let the jersey remain submerged for at least 30 minutes before throwing it into the washing machine.

For extra stubborn stains, such as those from grass, try making a paste out of equal parts baking soda and vinegar, and pour it directly over the stained area. Use a clean toothbrush to rub the paste into the stain. Then, let the fabric absorb the paste for at least an hour before washing it in the machine.

Avoid the Dryer

Over time, heat can damage a jersey causing any letters, numbers or other details on the jersey to crack or peel off. It’s best to avoid throwing the jersey in the dryer. Instead, allow it to air dry on a flat surface.

No Matter How Much You Sweat…

Remember to wash similar clothing together, and avoid throwing your workout gear in the laundry with towels, fleece or other materials that may have a lot of lint. Over time, washing athletic apparel with these other items may cause pilling. Also, don’t overdo it with the detergent. Using an excessive amount of detergent won’t make the clothing cleaner. Instead, it can create an unwanted buildup of soap and residue that can trap odors in clothing after being washed.

Words by: Claire Tak

Originally published: May 10, 2022

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