It took a lot of trial and error, but I finally figured out how to make my summer running clothes smell fresh instead of disgusting.
Yep, bleach…regular, cheap, chlorine bleach.
For several years I struggled to find something—anything—to make my summer running clothes smell presentable. I didn’t even care if they smelled good, I just wanted them not to smell like they had been wrapped around something dead. If you search the internet, you’ll find a lot of recommendations. I tried all the “special” detergents (Sport Wash, WIN, etc.). I tried OxyClean. I tried soaking my clothes in Pine-Sol (which was particularly gross). I tried soaking in vinegar and baking soda, which was mostly just messy. And I tried adding vinegar to both wash and rinse.
Some of these things “worked” to varying degrees, but the odor would come back as the clothes heated up during my runs. I learned tech fabric works because tiny notches collect sweat and move it to the outer layer so that it can evaporate. That’s what makes tech gear so awesome! It’s also what makes tech fabric smell yucky. Those tiny notches collect bacteria! Gross! (And even tech fabric with “anti-microbial” properties starts to smell after awhile.)
Once I realized bacteria was clinging to all my clothes, I thought to myself, “What kills bacteria? BLEACH!”
We’ve all been taught not to throw bleach into our laundry because it does what it says…bleaches your stuff…but I wasn’t sure what effect bleach would have on polyester, which is what tech fabric is largely made of. I took a risk. I wash my running clothes at a laundromat and everything together in the same load. I literally started with one tablespoon of bleach. I just put it in the compartment marked bleach and let all the clothes go through the wash cycle together. There was a difference even with that small amount and no clothes were harmed!
That was about four years ago and I now use about a quarter cup of bleach per load and it works like a charm. My clothes look great—not at all faded—and smell even better. Any odor while running is just a faint laundry smell. During the summer, I use bleach with every load. During the winter, I go ahead and use it about every fourth wash, just to kill any non-smelly bacteria.
If you’re having trouble with odor, I recommend trying bleach, even if it’s just a tiny amount. You might find it makes all the difference!