Funky smelling workout clothes

12 years ago

I've had my frigidiare affinity since November and I love it - overall, my clothes are much much cleaner than they were with my old washer. But recently, I've been noticing that some of my workout clothes (particularly the sports bras) still reek a bit even after being washed and dried. It's not a mold-in-the-washer smell (believe me, I had plenty of that with my last washer) - it's definitely just an old sweat/BO kind of stink (sorry for the TMI!)

I think the problem is especially bad with the sports bras because I can't wash them on hot (it would kill the elastic) and I don't dry them in the dryer (where the nice dryer sheet smell might mask the old-gym-locker stench). I already run my laundry on a heavy duty cycle and use the stain soaker which gives an extra 5 minute soak. Short of handwashing the sports bras with long soaks in woolite or something, is there anything I can do to get the stink out? I use Sears HE detergent with enzymes. Thanks!

Comments (27)

  • cynic
    12 years ago

    Have you tried any of the following: vinegar, Borax, baking soda, or other detergents? Possibly a long soak then put it in the wash? What temperature and detergent are you using? Possibly a soak in a dish liquid.

    What's the washing procedure recommended for the garment? Some tips suggest washing it in the shower using detergent or shampoo. I take it you haven't tried Woolite? Maybe handwashing is necessary?

  • cynic
    12 years ago

    One other thought, are you using enough detergent? I just noticed it seems to be most of your workout clothes. Is there enough clothes in there to give enough friction to really give them the agitation they need?

    Another thought is to hang the clothes in the sun for a while to deodorize them. But it seems to me that you should be able to get them clean in the washer. Some of my clothes would smell pretty good after working outside and the like and a good washing took care of it. Even some gas smells and the like would wash out.

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  • bookert
    12 years ago

    You might ck out amazon as I was just reading today about a few liquid detergents made for that reason. Sportwash was the name of one. One stated it was used for the Olympic athletes clothing.
    Hope this helps.

  • suburbanmd
    12 years ago

    Higher wash temperature helps with odors. About wash temperature: On clothing labels, "cold" means less than 85F, "warm" means less than 105F, "hot" means less than 120F. In the Frigidaire Affinity manuals I found online, it says "cold" is controlled to 65F, "warm" is controlled to 78F, and "hot" is controlled to 120F. So you can use the "warm" setting on clothes marked for cold wash.

    As for the "hot" setting, it may not actually be at 120F, if the washer is far from the water heater, and doesn't have an internal heater that boosts on cycles other than sanitary. And the water will cool off pretty fast, unless the internal heater maintains wash temperature on the cycle you're using.

    So I'd suggest you try washing on hot -- the elastic may withstand whatever the temperature actually is. For the last six months I've been doing white washes in a heated, long wash cycle at 140F, and haven't yet noticed any elastic damage.

  • bruce_ca
    12 years ago

    I work out a lot and used to have the same problem. The sportwash detergents totally get rid of the problem. I also found that 'Country Save' brand worked to get rid of the smell. Yeah, slightly annoying to have to wash all the sport stuff separately but since you're not supposed to use fabric softeners on them, I do that already.

  • folly_grows
    12 years ago

    Try Charlie's Soap, either liquid or powder. One tbs for a whole load, and eliminates the need for fabric softeners. While I use it all of my laundry, I understand that it is particularly good on sportswear. My cousin likes what it does to his denims. Their website has a link to retailers by state, or if none of them is close to you, you can buy it directly from them or on Ebay.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Charlie's Soap

  • livebetter
    11 years ago

    If you're actually talking about BO odor ... I found that salt water is the only thing that removes it completely. I read it somewhere once and it absolutely works for me (vinegar and baking soda did not work as well).

    I usually make a salt water soak for offensive items. I add a big scoop of table salt to some water in the laundry sink and soak for an hour or more before laundering. Totally gone after washed.

    I found this info on-line:


    It is no accident that salt is used to preserve meat: it is powerfully antibacterial.

    Salt is also the only ingredient in this toolkit that can work to remove perspiration stains. Many find it works wonders when following the directions described below.

    Otherwise, use one of the oxygen bleach products, and follow the directions on the productÂs label.

    Directions for Use

    Perspiration Stains

    Make a paste of ½ cup of table salt and two teaspoons each of "green" hand dish detergent and water. Stir to blend. Wet the perspiration stains and rub with the paste. Let the combination set for a few hours before laundering as usual.


    For perspiration stains and BO.

    4 cups of table salt
    Free and Clear laundry detergent
    4 cups of table salt along with my detergent
    Add the salt and detergent to the laundry basin and wash as usual.

    Good luck!

    Here is a link that might be useful: How can I get the stink out of all our sports stuff?

  • mark40511
    11 years ago

    Isn't baking soda "salt"??

  • sshrivastava
    11 years ago

    @lkplatow: Elastic deteriorates at temps above 160°F. You should be safe washing your sports bras on HOT. Make sure you use enough detergent for your water conditions and load size. I would also throw in some oxygen bleach (sodium percarbonate or perborate) to help with the odor removal. I think wash temperature is the issue.

  • livebetter
    11 years ago

    I believe baking soda is a form of "salt" but it is not table salt. Google it for the exact answer.

    Funny, my neighbours are "Iron Man" athletes and we had this very conversation tonight. They told me they use a product called Sport Suds and said it absolutely saved their workout gear.

    He was telling me that the synthetic fabrics just hold onto odours and that traditional laundry products contain things that "cling on" (i.e. brighteners, fragrance, etc Â).

    Here is a link for more information.

    They donÂt say what exactly is in the product although they do say itÂs all natural. I prefer to know exactly.

    Anyway, thought someone here might find this useful.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Sport Suds

  • ryanhouse
    11 years ago

    I wash everything in cold and have also had some clothes that just stayed stinky. I had a natural anti-stink spray for cloth diapers and tried it on my own clothes -- it definitely works. It's got some kind of magic, natural enzymes. Just spray when you put the offending item in the hamper (I think it needs to be on the fabric a little while to work before it goes into the washer). It's called Bum Genius Odor Remover -- here's a link, although I buy mine from my local cloth diaper provider.

  • sspye
    11 years ago


    I'd go back to what cynic said for your first try. Although they won't confirm it...Sportwash, and the like may be made by Charlie's Soap. There are endless threads on this information. I happen to be a Charlie's Soap user and love it.

    In short, you need a product that will strip some of the gunk that traditional products leave on your fabrics....brighteners, scents, etc. Don't use fabric softeners or dryer sheets...they just add to the gunk that sticks to your fabrics. Try some of the products that cynic listed for your workout clothes. If you like what they do for your workout clothes, you might start using it for all of your fabrics. :)

  • Pat z6 MI
    11 years ago

    Ditto what sshrivastava said, plus do not use fabric softeners, plus try Cheer Free powder (has oxygen bleach). You don't need dyes and fragrance in that fabric.

  • mark40511
    11 years ago

    R u sure it's simply just not enough hot water/detergent (no matter what kind) combined with washing the items by themselves (preventing good washing action) causing this problem? I ran out of Sears detergent and bought some Tide HE with a touch of downy (will go back to Sears when this box is empty) and haven't noticed this problem with any of my sweaty clothes.

  • clwguy
    10 years ago

    I realize this is an old thread but I have the exact same problem and it is a real gross problem.

    I tried Charley's Soap but it didn't work. Neither did Penguin Brands Penguin Sport Wash which is listed on Amazon. I've also tried soaking in vinegar and baking soda but it made no difference. WIN sport detergent also sold on Amazon has very good reviews and is used by pro athletes. I'm going to try soaking in salt water next to see if that works... it sounds like it might and it's a very inexpensive solution. If that doesn't then I'll try the WIN and report back.

  • lkplatow
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    Hey there, I'm the OP and I figured since this thread got dredged up again, I'd report back.

    I did use the sportwash from walmart (in the hunting section) and that seemed to help. I will toss a capful in if I have a particularly stinky load.

    But I also figured out that if I lay out the clothes to dry instead of tossing the clothes in the hamper soaking sweaty-wet, it helps a lot. The stink comes out in a normal wash if I've let them dry out good. Course, there's usually sweaty clothes draped all over my bathtub edge, so that's kind of the gross tradeoff.

    Also, I switched to (of all things) Walmart brand Great Value detergent -- it seems to do a better job than the Tide or All I was using and it's like half the price.

    The bras still sometimes have a funk to them (they are a thicker fabric and I think take longer to dry out), but pretty much everything else has been stench free with this procedure. I think letting them dry out helps more than the specific detergent -- luckily I work out at home and not at the gym, so I can spread them out and let them dry right away.

    If that's not an option for you because you're a gym user, I did read a suggestion on a runner's forum that suggested wearing your running clothes into the shower with you if you're at the gym and letting them rinse out as you shower -- they said that was the only thing that helped them with the stink. Either way, I think the key is to get the sweat/stink out right away by rinsing or drying it before it has a chance to brew in a sweaty environment -- the new technical fabrics seem particularly disposed to odors when they're allowed to sit around all sweaty-like -- even if I try to wear a shirt for a half hour or so after working out without changing (like if I get busy with something and can't change right away), it starts to stink so bad I can't stand it. None of my cotton stuff has ever done that!

  • Cavimum
    10 years ago

    @lkplatow said - "But I also figured out that if I lay out the clothes to dry instead of tossing the clothes in the hamper soaking sweaty-wet, it helps a lot. The stink comes out in a normal wash if I've let them dry out good."

    This is probably the reason. My DH has worn wicking golf shirts on the golf course for at least four years, walks 18 holes in the heat & humidity, and I work up a bad sweat just doing heavy yard work in summers.

    We always let stuff dry out before putting in the laundry pile, mainly so it won't mildew and cause mildew on the surrounding innocent clothes, not to mention 'fermenting' in the dark recesses of the laundry basket. We've never had odor problems, even when I used Charlies Soap in our old top-loader over the past couple of years.

    You can always buy one of those collapsible clothes-drying racks to hang the wet workout clothes on for drying, but don't use the wood type--get one with plastic on the dowels.

  • livebetter
    10 years ago

    Stink can be caused by bacteria so it's not surprising that staying damp would make them smell more. The bacteria probably thrive in the damp.

    Just as an FYI I recently discovered this product. I haven't tried it myself but it sounds like it would work. I've read good reviews for it.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Fresh Wave for athletic clothes

  • jenblossom32
    10 years ago

    What about a soak in a capful of Lysol Concentrate (Wal-mart) to kill bacteria..then wash in cold water/hang dry?

  • clwguy
    10 years ago

    Thanks for the follow-ups. This is what I ended up doing and it seemed to work.

    First I let the gymwear soak in heavily salted water (1/4 c - 1/2 cup) for 4 or 5 hours. Machine rinsed. Followed with another 4 -5 hour soak this time with 1/4 c Pinesol. Machine rinsed and then another final soak in salt water, then a final regular wash with Tide powder. The clothes smell disinfectant- fresh!! LOL.

    In the past I have tried rinsing the clothes in the shower after workout and it does work but it really is a pain. I've also spraying them Fabreeze Antibacterial and that too seems to help.

    I will probably buy the WIN detergent because I can't go through that soak rigamarole on a regular basis. I'm also going to try the suggestion of letting them try out in the sun before throwing in the laundry basket That sounds like a very good suggestion

  • cangelmd
    10 years ago

    I have had good luck with sweaty T-shirts using a product called Febreze Laundry Odor Eliminator. It is difficult to find, some Walmart Supercenters carry it, but not all, and I haven't found it anywhere else, haven't tried the Internet, I just stockpile it.

    I fill up the cap and then bunch up the pits of the T-shirts and soak them in the liquid. If it is a big load of clothes, I will pour a capful into the washer as well.
    This works best as a preventative measure, although I have also had luck with dried-in sweaty smells as well.

    One member of my family has more issues with this than the rest - more smells, more reaction to deodorant and yellowing of clothes - I have heard that this is actually a genetic issue, where the person's perspiration reacts differently with deodorant.
    Anyway that person's clothes gets pretreatment, even when the clothes just seem normally dirty, and that has helped a lot.

  • Naeko
    10 years ago

    When you let sweaty items made of sandwiched material (bras) sit in the hamper, mildew and bacteria grow in the middle layer and might not get totally washed out. Strongly salty water kills the odor making bacteria/mold so that is probably why it works. A giant bag of salt at Sam's Club is pretty cheap, so that might be your source of salt. It's too bad chlorine bleach is a no-no for bras as that would kill off everything living in the middle layer.

    I use hot water and oxyclean and it has been enough for me. Maybe I will pay more attention to the supermarket shelves and see if there is some sort of disinfecting additive that can be added to the prewash (assuming that your model lets you put a prewash in front of the delicate cycle).

    If I had your problem, I would prewash by hand using a little bit of detergent and gently knead the wet mix into the bra's problem areas. It's your choice to knead solely in your hands or knead on top of a sponge for softer kneading of the fabric. Then toss in the wash without rinsing out. If that doesn't work, I would escalate by diluting some mouthwash and using that to kill germs and sterilize. I would experiment to find an economical ratio of water to that brand of mouthwash. Those prior two methods are easy, but if they don't, I'd try using an antibacterial soap and then rinse out most of the soap that comes out easily as I depend on the washer getting rid of the rest of the soap residue. If you have no antibacterial soap or its killing power is too weak, then try head & shoulders shampoo as the next alternative but that will take extra rinsing out since shampoo has fragrance in it.

    As antibacterial handsoaps go, they range from the weak 0.1% triclosan to the robust 0.3% triclosan (the cheap handsoap in the commercial cleaning products section of Sam's Club).

  • sshrivastava
    10 years ago

    The key here is not to simply cover up the odor, but to eliminate the underlying cause. Odor can be caused by a number of things, notably certain bodily fluids and bacteria. I would recommend adding a small amount of liquid chlorine bleach to the wash water - enough to disinfect, not enough to bleach anything. Start with 1 TBSP and see if that helps. You can also use pine oil, pine sol, tea tree oil, or grapefruit seed extract.

    They key is killing the bacteria and removing the bodily fluids and oils that may be the cause.

  • soccerdude
    10 years ago

    I agree with Joann from FL. The Sports Wash from the camping section at WalMart is a really good product for all
    synthetic clothes. It's made to clean and eliminate odors not cover them up like other products. I use it on my workout stuff, my wife's and my two son's w/o any problems.
    If the bras are really smelly you may want to spray with an oxygen cleaner first, let sit for a couple of minutes then into the wash. Wash your sports bras regularly, don't let them get funky. Think of them more like underwear and not like a running jacket or pullover. Even if they don't look dirty they can start to build up skin oils which can be hard to get out, especially if staining has started. Don't put in dryer and don't use fabric softener.Softener ruins the wicking action and can clog and lock in smells, stains etc. in fabric fibers. Use something else to measure the liquid. The cap overlaps so excess drips down the outside of the bottle. Good luck.

  • itguy08
    10 years ago

    I've been trying the Tide Sport and it seems to be working well on my running shirts and shorts. It has gotten most of the funk out of some of the older shirts and shorts as well as leaves them pretty soft. I'm impressed.

  • sshrivastava
    9 years ago

    I find that Tide HE powder in any of its varieties is sufficient to de-funk your clothes.