How to Clean Running Gear

One of the most common questions I get is “how to clean running gear.”

When you use running gear regularly, you’ve likely come to a point where your beloved top or special pair of pants begins to smell. Cleaning running gear extends its life, and yes, there is a right and wrong way.

How to Clean Running Gear

Here is How to Clean Running Gear:

First Shoes: 

Don’t Wash Your Shoes. Say it with me. Don’t wash your shoes. Don’t push your shoes in the washing machine and don’t put them in the dryer.

I sound like a broken record, but putting your running shoes into the washing machine will damage the material and can drastically decrease the life of your shoes. The washing machine is usually too harsh for shoes and can weaken the fabric and adhesives.

The pressure of hot water and the chemicals in detergent will melt the glue that holds the shoe together or even parts of the shoe technology.

Gentle hand washing is the key. 

Let’s start from the beginning – before you even get to the wash. But here is how you clean your running gear.

Don’t Let Dirty Clothing Linger:

After you finish a run, the last thing you want to do is laundry. If you’re like me, you might want to throw it in the laundry hamper to be washed another day. Once in a while, that’s fine, but don’t let your dirty running clothing fester. They can mold. It’s gross.

Dark and moist environments like laundry hampers cause bacteria and microbial growth from sweat and dirt to flourish, which ultimately causes a smell. The longer you leave something wet and dirty in there, the more growth is encouraged. Sometimes, the smell sits too long and gets locked into your clothing forever.

Instead of throwing your used running gear directly in a hamper, find a spot you can let your gear hang dry if you aren’t washing immediately. Once they are dry, place them in the hamper.

When it comes to washing your running gear:

Read the Label:

Obviously, the first step with how to clean your running gear is to read the label. Most high-tech and the performance-related fabric is not meant to handle hot water. Why? Hot water weakens the fabric.

Sometimes, extending the life of your gear is as easy as washing in lukewarm or cold water. When in doubt, use cold water unless otherwise directed by the label.

Choosing Laundry Detergent:

There are hundreds of laundry detergents out there, and each is designed for a different purpose. One of the most components of how to clean running gear is choosing the right laundry detergent.

Did you know there are special detergents designed for technical fabric?  These laundry detergents use enzymes to break down soils, body oil, and sweat. This is exactly what a runner needs, given that high-tech fabric wicks away moisture but traps in body oils and bacteria, which is what causes odor.

Regular detergent uses chemicals to make clothing look brighter and feel softer. When used on technical fabric, these detergents create a thin layer of residue that traps body oil and odor in the fabric. If an odor is attached to the fabric, it will be locked between the fabric and this layer. Do you find your technical fabric sometimes smells forever? This is a case of not using the right detergent.

Because detergent designed for technical fabric breaks down the oils and bacteria that cause it, odor never has a chance to get locked in.

I’ve used Sport Suds for a while now and have found a noticeable difference.  If you’ve been using regular detergent on your running gear, Sport Suds also helps eliminate the residue that may have accumulated in your workout clothing over time.

Should you Use a Fabric Softener?

This is easy. No.

How to clean running gear does not include the use of fabric softener. The point of a technical fabric is to breathe while you are running. Using fabric softener clogs it all up. The material no longer becomes moisture-wicking, and instead, you are left with gear that will perform like a cotton t-shirt.

Dryer or No Dryer?

How to clean running gear (the best way) includes not using the dryer. We know not to use the dryer for running shoes, but did you also know dryer heat breaks down synthetic materials? It’s even worse for sports bras, leggings, and tight-fitting pants.

Dryers can also heat bacteria and return them to their odorous state. The best method is air-dry, but if for whatever reason you must use a dryer, use a no-heat cycle.

How to Clean Running Gear Conclusion:

All in all, by properly washing your running gear, you can significantly extend its life, and who doesn’t want that?  Finally, this doesn’t apply to just “running clothing” – the following tips can get you more time with any workout and technical fabric. Running gear is only getting more expensive, so we want to preserve life.

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Questions for you:

How do you clean your running gear?

Have you lost a piece of running gear because it smells?