Cleaning & Caring for your Athletic Clothes

March 13, 2024 3 min read

Cleaning & Caring for your Athletic Clothes

One of my joys is being active. I take and teach strength training classes four times a week, and get in my steps any time I get the chance to go for a walk. My husband, Scott has worked out regularly for the last 40 years and hits the gym at 5 a.m. four times a week. And our son, Graham, frequents the gym in addition to his training with the high school swim and cross country teams. And we all attend a yoga class at the local Y anytime we have a free Saturday morning. 


Besides a healthy lifestyle, this activity leads to one thing: loads of laundry.


We spend so much time in our athletic clothes that we often wash and wear several times a week. For this, it’s important to launder with care so that our items retain their color and shape and last many workouts. Here’s how to clean athletic clothes, shoes and bags, and keep them in shape: 


Athletic Wear

Before you get started, air dry your dirty clothes, especially if they are damp. This will help remove odors during the laundering process.


Like all laundry, separate the lights and darks but try to wash your sports clothes separately. Before you get started, turn each item inside out. While most items are safe to machine wash, the common fabrics used in leggings and athletic shorts can wear down quickly. It’s best to wash nylon, Lycra, spandex and polyester on the cold cycle; heat can break down the elasticity of stretchy fabrics. And when it comes to detergent, more is not better. Soap buildup can retain sweat and odors longer.


Toss sports bras in a LooHoo Wash Bag and wash them on cold with the rest of your gym clothes. These should always be hung to dry and not put in the dryer to keep the padded inserts and any elastic intact.


Avoid fabric softeners, which can damage stretchy fabrics and create a coating that traps smells. To remove stubborn odors or sweat stains, soak items in cold water with a cup of white vinegar for 30 minutes; rinse and machine wash using cold cycle.


Dry athletic clothes separately in the dryer with LooHoos on low for a short 10- to 15-minute cycle to freshen them up.


Athletic Shoes

It doesn’t take much for athletic shoes to go from white to not so bright. To return your pair to their former glory, start by removing the laces and, if you want to avoid a tangled mess, throw them in a mesh bag and wash with like colors on the warm cycle. Pull out the insoles and wash them separately with warm water and detergent. Remove dirt from the shoes with a soft bristle brush and wash with detergent on warm cycle with like colors. A wooden skewer or toothbrush can help get out the dirt lodged in the outsole. Machine wash on warm with a full load of like colors choosing the short cycle to prevent overworking the shoes.


If you prefer to handwash your shoes, scrub the outer soles with equal parts warm water, hydrogen peroxide and washing soda and two tablespoons of laundry detergent for every 1½ cups of liquid. Mix a second batch of liquid. Scrub off dirt then submerge shoes and let soak a couple of hours.


Air dry shoes thoroughly then reinsert the insoles and laces. When shoes are clean and completely dry apply shoe polish to brighten shoes or cover up scuff marks. Use a leather conditioner or protective fabric spray, depending on your shoe material.


Want to keep your shoes fresh in between washes? Insert a LooHoo Wool Dryer Ball in each shoe overnight to absorb odors.


Athletic Bags

Don’t forget the bag used to carry your dirty athletic shoes and clothing. It may smell and hold some of the dirt from your shoes and clothes. Before washing, remove all items from the bag. Check the label and if the bag is machine washable, turn it inside out and place in a laundry bag. Wash on the gentle cycle with cold water and a mild detergent. Skip the bleach and fabric softener, which can damage the bag or fade the color.


If the bag is not machine washable, add laundry soap to a sink or tub of warm water; make sure the soap is thoroughly dissolved. Wash by hand, then rinse the bag in warm water and gently squeeze out excess water.


Air dry the bag thoroughly before using. To reduce odors, sprinkle a few drops of your favorite essential oil on a LooHoo dryer ball and toss in your athletic bag.