How to Get the Stink out of Running Clothes

laundry supplies
Tools of the de-stinking trade

As a runner, a stay-at-home mom, wife to a cyclist and gardener, I do a LOT of laundry. A ridiculous amount, in fact. And much of our laundry is sweaty, stinky and dirty. Fortunately, thanks to my own trial and error and the wisdom of my mom, I have developed a pretty simple, chemical-free method of removing the dirt and stink from our clothes.

Until the other day, I honestly thought that everyone did their laundry this way! But at a recent cross country meet, it came to my attention that a lot of people have no clue how to get their sweaty clothes stink-free. I simply mentioned one step of my laundry method and all of a sudden I was surrounded by a crowd of women eager to find out how they could get their running clothes free of dirt and stink. Who knew?!?!

That experience led me to realize that it was high time I shared my simple sports clothes laundry secrets with my Salty friends! Behold, the 5 step process for keeping your running clothes clean and smelling fresh!

First, the “before the wash” steps:

1. After a run, if you can, hang the clothes to dry. This can be outside (that is best), on a drying rack or even just on the sides of the laundry basket.

2. Never, ever, ever combine two (or more) peoples’ stinky clothes. If I wash my stinky clothes with my husband’s stinky clothes, then neither set ends up smelling fresh. And (antithesis of bonus here), the next time I sweat my clothes have an odiferous hint of my husband’s sweaty smell. Ewww.

Now for the actual washing steps:

3. Try out a vinegar pre-wash. Load your stinky clothes into the washer and set the washer on a “quick wash” cycle, or a “rinse only” cycle. Then put 1 cup of plain white vinegar into the liquid detergent dispenser (for quick wash) or just into the washer with the clothes (for rinse only).  Set the temperature to cold and let the washer do its work.

4. Once the first round is done, set the washer to a regular cycle, or even a heavy duty wash cycle if you prefer. Keep the water temperature set on cold. Add 1 cup of baking soda to the clothes and put your regular detergent into the proper receptacle. Once again, just let the washer do the job!

5. Ideally, hang your clothes dry. We have a drying rack in our soaking tub in the master bath (we don’t take baths. Ever.) which is convenient and can always stay set up. If you cannot air dry your clothes, put them in the dryer on the lowest temperature setting possible.

English: rose bunch, Rosa sp. cultivars, flowe...
Imagine old running clothes that smell like these! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ta Da! Clean, neutral-smelling clothes are now yours! I find that I do not need to do the vinegar rinse step every single time I wash my sports clothes, but when my clothes really need extra help to get nice and clean, that vinegar rinse does the trick every time.

And yes, it is totally kosher to casually mention this article to your (potentially stinky) training partners. They most likely know that their clothes stink already… it really isn’t their fault! You’re welcome.

Extrovert. Unabashed fan of all things running. Mom/chauffeur/sidekick to a busy child who may be more eloquent than I am and wife to a husband who works so hard many people don't think he actually exists. Gymnast turned coxswain turned competitive runner hoping to become faster as a master.

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  1. I love vinegar!! Besides stinky running clothes, we used to also have stinky towel problems before the internet told me about using vinegar in your laundry 🙂

  2. I used your tips today. Only one thing was slightly smelly still and I attribute that to throwing all my running clothes in the load lol! Everything else smells amazing and is so bright! I am so incredibly happy that you posted this wonderful article, thank you!

  3. I just used this on a pile of smelly running clothes mixed with equally smelly paddling clothes! It worked like a charm on all my favorite sports clothes that I was beginning to think it was time to part with since I couldn’t get the smell out even with the sport washes.

    A fantastic suggestion! Thanks so much 🙂

  4. Just discovered this article, and I think it would be very helpful to members of our running club (Nolensville Running Club in TN)! Would you mind I used it in our upcoming newsletter?

  5. I just discovered its possible here (Israel) to buy washing liquid for clothes with vinegar added. Were always yrs behind 🙂 should be available abroad. On the other hand running with stinking gear means you never get caught in the pack 🙂 which slows down ones PR.

  6. I think a big part of getting the stink out of your clothes is using the right clothing for the right activities. There are some sports where you need more breathable clothing, or maybe something that is a little more stretchy. I know that my sister is a gymnast, and without the right clothes, it’s almost impossible to do some of her routines.

  7. Hi!

    I’m Christina, a writer for Buzzfeed, and I’d love to use this a photo from this for a post on amazing clothing hacks. Please let me know if this is possible, and if so, how you’d like to be credited.

    Thank you!