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How Do I Get the Smell Out of My Gym Clothes?

By Cynthia Myers

A good workout can energize you, help you lose weight and improve your health. But it can also leave you with stinky workout clothes. Apocrine glands are responsible for the smelly components of sweat, and bacteria that feed on the fatty secretions of these glands add to the odor problem, according to Columbia University's Health Center. Getting the smell out of your gym clothes requires finding a way to break down the fatty deposits and kill the bacteria.

  1. Pour liquid laundry detergent directly on the underarm area of the garment and anywhere else you feel the odor is concentrated. Use detergent that says it is good for removing protein-based stains. Allow the detergent to soak in for a few minutes, then toss the garment in the wash, along with the rest of the detergent for the load.

  2. Add vinegar to the rinse cycle. You can pour in a cup of vinegar at the start of the rinse cycle or fill the fabric-softener dispenser with vinegar. The acid in vinegar effectively breaks down many odors and also acts as a disinfectant.

  3. Coat the underarm area of the garment in a paste of baking soda and water. Add just enough water to 1/4 cup of baking soda to make a thick paste, and paint this onto the underarm area of the garment. Allow it to dry, then launder as usual. Baking soda effectively neutralizes many odors.

  4. Soak the garment in a salt-water solution if lingering odor remains. Dissolve several spoonfuls of salt in a gallon of warm water, and soak the garment overnight. Wash as usual.

  5. Tip

    If perspiration odor is a problem, wear underarm shields to protect your garments.

    Cotton and natural fibers are less likely to soak up odors than synthetic materials.


    Always test a small area of the garment, such as an inner seam, for colorfastness before using any stain-removal method.

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