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What Do I Do With My Smelly Gym Clothes In Between Laundry Days?

Illustration for article titled What Do I Do With My Smelly Gym Clothes In Between Laundry Days?
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SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

I have a problem — I’m dependent on going to the laundromat to wash my gym clothes so I can’t wash them right away. How do I handle a build up of sweaty clothes when I can reasonably only wash them once a week? Do I start a soak bucket of water and vinegar and just throw them in there and let them accumulate? Do I rinse them and throw them in the freezer? Thanks!

Have you ever come to the right place! For not only am I your resident cleaning expert, I’m also a laundromat-dependent gym rat. I have help for you!

Let’s start by addressing the two suggestions you threw out: You’re definitely thinking along the right lines, but I definitely don’t recommend leaving gym clothes in a bucket of water, even if it does have vinegar in it, for a whole week. That’s just gonna create a fetid mess. As for the freezer, while freezing clothes doesn’t actually get them clean (go ahead, take your jeans out of the icebox now) it will nuke odor-causing bacteria during the time the clothes are frozen. So! Not a bad choice, but honestly I’d rather not take up your entire freezer with dirty gym clothes so that you may have room for ice. Delicious, delicious ice. (I am an Ice Enthusiast, it’s a whole thing.)


Okay so now here come the things I do want you to do!

Switch Up Your Laundry Hamper

The main problem with sweaty gym clothes is, duh, that they’re sweaty. All that moisture + bacteria = bad smell times, and so one super simple way to cut back on the bad smell times is to let the clothes dry out. A laundry hamper that allows for air circulation will help with that; you may be like, “But won’t that make my room smell?’ Which is a good question! No, an open hamper won’t make the room smell significantly worse than a closed one.

Mesh popup-style hampers are a good choice for gym gear, and they’re what I use in my own life. If you want something sturdier and more structured, this plastic Sterilite hamper will do the trick. Another option, if you truly prefer a closed hamper, is to get an odor-neutralizing liner like Smelleze.


And finally, this Sport Hamper that looks like a SimpleHuman trashcan but for your dirty gym clothes seems pretttttty promising (though it doesn’t actually seem to be available to buy right now, sadly).

Shower Rinse+Drying Rack

I mentioned already that letting gym clothes dry out is a good way to prevent their smell from getting worse in between wearing and laundering them, and this is true! If you can level up on the drying by hanging them for a brief spell before tossing them into the hamper, GREAT!


A wall-mounted telescoping drying rack is the perfect thing for this operation, provided you have the right space for it. There are lots of sizes and styles available, like this Brightmaison fold-down style, this Whitmor fold-up style and this Tangkula accordion style, so if the idea of a wall-mounted drying rack sounds like it might be the right solution to your problem do know that there are options out there.


Now then, and even better way to level up is to do what we refer to in the business as “the shower rinse.” The shower rinse, you’ll be gobsmacked to learn, involves taking your sweaty workout clothes into the shower to rinse them out. The benefit of doing this is that it will, yes, rinse away the sweat but also the body oils and dead skin that combine to make those rank smells. If you want level up like WHOA you can stash a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s in the shower, and put a tiny blurt of it on the clothes during the rinse. Dr. Bronner’s is SUPER great on smells and is also gentle enough that you won’t need to worry if some of it gets onto your personal parts. Because, you know, you’re in the shower ….

Nuke Odors With Science

So I’m gonna totally show my math on this one: When I came across that Sport Hamper it gave me this idea — get one of those UV wands and wand it over your gym gear before tossing it in the hamper. This is actually my favorite of all the suggestions I have for you today! You can stash the UV wand either in your gym bag, or right next to the hamper, so it’s right there at the ready for you to grab, wand, and toss.


One last idea to leave you with, along with a promise to do a follow-up column on gym gear washing best practices — Lysol Laundry Sanitizer is a great product that I think is aces for using alongside laundry detergent with stuff you want to wash in cold water but that might be extra bacteria-y (that’s a technical term, yes). It can also be decanted into a small plastic spray bottle and used to spritz dirty workout clothes in between the wearing and the washing of them.


Okay, before I blow this pop stand tell me: What ingenious techniques and products have you found helpful in your own gym-going life for not letting dirty workout clothes smell from overtaking your home? Let us know in the comments please!

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person

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