Every sweat-a-holic knows that sometimes stink happens, and while you may be kind enough to excuse the scent of others, it's never fun to realize that you're the smelly-culprit. So how do you stop the stink? It starts with good hygiene, but there are a few other factors, too.
1. Shower and deodorize
It may sound like a no-brainer, but the cleaner you are, the better you and your fitness gear will smell. You see, sweat is excreted from eccrine and appocrine glands. The eccrine glands mainly excrete water and salt, which generally won't lead to body odor (this is why you can get sweaty palms without causing an offensive smell).The appocrine glands are a different story. These are the glands that develop around puberty, and they're the real stinkers. Appocrine glands excrete waste, primarily in the form of proteins and lipids. These wastes become food for healthy bacteria that live on the skin. When the bacteria start chowing down on the sweaty waste, body odor occurs! So, long story short, if you take regular showers and wash away "bacteria food" regularly, your nose, your clothes and your gym mates will all thank you!
For an extra shot of protection, apply antiperspirant-deodorant to help reduce the excess sweat that occurs during workouts. The deodorant will help mask any smells that push through.
2. Wash your clothes wisely
There are at least four things you can do to your workout clothes during the wash cycle to help reduce odor:
- First, treat stains and "odor areas." Plain ol' white vinegar is an amazing resource when it comes to stink-free (and pretty!) clothes. The acids in vinegar are mild enough not to harm the fabric, but strong enough to neutralize odors and prevent nasty yellow pit stains. Simply spray the underarms and any other "odor areas" of your clothing with full-strength white vinegar before throwing them in the wash.
- Second, follow the instructions on the clothing's label. Clothing manufacturers make washing recommendations for a reason, so if the label says to wash the item in cold water...wash it in cold water!
- Third, use a detergent designed for sports apparel. Sweat isn't the only thing that can react with your skin's bacteria to cause a smell. The dirt, oil and "gym slime" you inadvertently pick up during your workout all create a bacteria-friendly breeding ground. The cleaner your clothes are, the less opportunity you'll provide the bacteria to respond. Specialty detergents, like Tide plus Febreze Freshness Sport, are actually designed to help release these stains during a standard laundry cycle, making it easier to keep your clothes clean.
- Fourth - go ahead and deodorize your clothes. Personally, I think it's nasty when someone shows up to the gym immediately after spraying herself with a fabric refresher. It's not that the scent is bad, but the perfume-like density of the smell can be cloying in a gym, especially if the environment is muggy. So, rather than spray yourself down, deodorize your clothes while they're being washed. This will allow the intensity of the fabric deodorizer to diminish to a nice, tolerable level. While there are several options on the market, I really like the Downy Unstopables Fresh scent because I think it smells a little like Sweet Tarts. I realize this may not have been what they were going for, but I certainly don't mind smelling like candy!
3. Dry with care
Again, check your labels before tossing your workout clothes in the dryer on high heat. Some apparel can handle high temperatures, but garments with a lot of elastic may actually break down under high heat, trapping bacteria inside. It's usually a safer bet to dry your clothes on low heat or to hang them up to dry.
4. Treat your clothes lovingly
Goodness knows I've been known to throw a sweaty top into the bottom of my gym bag, only to forget about it...that is, until the stink no longer allows me to forget. Try not to be like me! Do your best to prevent mold and bacteria from building up in your fitness gear by washing it shortly after your workout. If that's not an option, at least lie it flat so that it has the opportunity to dry.
If you do end up finding a crusty sports bra at the bottom of your laundry hamper, just remember that white vinegar is your friend! You can get rid of the moldy smell by adding a few cups of white vinegar to your regular load of laundry.
Bonus tip: Purchase better gear
Look for fitness gear that offers antimicrobial, odor-reducing technology. Or, better yet, simply look for gear made from bamboo. Bamboo fabrics are naturally anti-microbial, so they're naturally odor-reducing, too. Plus, bamboo is a renewable resource, so it's an environmentally-friendly option. Most yoga apparel companies offer bamboo gear, but for high-performance workout clothes, check out tasc Performance or DannyShane Cycling Jerseys. Both of these companies are on the cutting-edge of bamboo performance apparel. You can check out our favorite pieces here: