How to Get Rid of the Smell of Sweat in Workout Clothes

Love working up a sweat but hate the lingering smell of sweaty gym clothes? Try these five tips for odour-free gear.

Last updated: 26 May 2022
4 min read
How to Get Rid of the Smell of Sweat in Workout Clothes
Time Required
30 min
Estimated Cost


  • White vinegar
  • Bicarb of soda
  • Laundry detergent


  • Sink-sized container

While a hard sweat session often feels rewarding, a lingering smell on workout clothes (even after washing them) can present challenges when it comes to getting ready for the next gym visit.

Gym clothes absorb sweat throughout a workout. Certain types of fabric, like cotton, tend to retain moisture. Other materials, like the polyester fabric found in Nike Dri-FIT clothing, help keep the skin cool and dry by dispersing moisture across the fabric's surface to evaporate faster.

No matter what your workout clothing is made from, it's possible for stubborn sweat smells to remain, even after a cycle in the wash. Check out these five tips to remove body odour from workout clothing.

How to Get Rid of Sweat Smell in Workout Clothes

  1. 1.Dry Gym Clothes before Washing

    Even if workout apparel is made from quick-drying polyester or performance materials that wick moisture away from the body, it may not dry completely if it's thrown in the hamper or kept in the bottom of a gym bag.

    Odour-causing bacteria thrives in damp environments, so hanging up workout gear can help mitigate bacterial growth and therefore reduce the opportunity for smells to sink in.

  2. 2.Pre-Soak in Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda

    Combining two household staples—white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda—can be a powerful, odour-fighting method. White vinegar is a natural deodoriser and bicarbonate of soda has alkaline properties, both of which help deodorise and sanitise clothes.

    Before tossing workout clothing into the washing machine, fill up the sink or a similar-sized container with cold water. Next, add a cup of white vinegar and a cup of bicarbonate of soda. Submerge the sweaty workout clothes and soak for at least 30 minutes before putting them through a wash cycle. They can go directly into the washing machine—no need to dry first.

    If you don't have time to do a vinegar-and-bicarbonate-of-soda pre-soak, consider adding a cup of white vinegar directly into the washing machine with the detergent and clothes. Don't worry about vinegar smell lingering on the clothing; it washes out in the machine.

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

  3. 3.Go Light on Laundry Detergent

    When it comes to detergent, adding more doesn't necessarily yield a better result. In fact, detergent can be counter-productive when used excessively. Laundry detergents and boosters can leave a residue on workout clothing that can trap odours. Use the recommended amount of detergent but avoid adding extra.

  4. 4.Skip the Fabric Softener

    Like detergent, fabric softeners can leave behind a coating that may further trap bacteria and unwanted smells over time. Although fabric softeners can help some items of clothing feel soft and smell fresh, it's best to avoid using them when washing workout clothes.

    Tip: high heat can damage the fibres in performance fabrics. It's best to wash workout clothes in cold water on a gentle cycle. This will help ensure workout clothing doesn't shrink or lose its shape. Whenever possible, let workout clothing air dry. If you need to use the dryer, opt for a no-heat or low-tumble setting.

  5. 5.Turn Clothing Inside Out and Wash with Similar Fabrics

    To maximise the washing machine's efficacy, turn workout clothing inside out before washing. Since odour-causing bacteria tends to build up most inside clothes, washing them inside out helps achieve a more thorough clean.

    While it may seem convenient to wash towels, hoodies and jeans all together, it's best to avoid washing gym clothes with fleece-like materials. This can cause lint to stick to workout gear and cause pilling over time. Heavy fabrics, like denim, and anything with buttons or zips should also be separately washed to avoid damaging the delicate fabrics of athletic wear.

    RELATED: 5 Simple Steps to Wash Your Hoodie So It Stays Soft and Fluffy

Words by: Claire Tak

Originally published: 26 May 2022

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