The dirty little secret of technical apparel: it stinks. The build-up of perspiration salts, odor and bacteria produce a residue that can prove challenging to remove. Although many companies like to blame the laundry habits of their customers, the reality is that the fabric weave itself can be a big part of the problem. According to Proctor & Gamble (the Tide folks), those nice little air channels that help wick away moisture can trap dirt and bacteria, acting as odor magnets. If like me, you figure a wash cycle does the trick, you may be surprised to hear that “rebloom” – lingering odors, post wash – is estimated to affect half of all activewear wash loads.
There are lots of home remedies and special detergents on the market that have been designed specifically for sports apparel. The key, of course, is not to use anything harsh that will break down the fabric, the Lycra®, the chamois, the silicone gripper.
Pop Sugar claims to have tested lots of DIY solutions and most every detergent. Here’s their verdict on the top 4 options for keeping your pricey activewear clean:
1. Nathan Sport-Wash
“Get the Stink Out.” You’ll find this one sold at REI so you know it’s decent at what it claims to do. It works with high efficiency washers, prevents color fading and won’t damage your favorite pair of shorts. Biodegradable and vegetable based.
2. Downy Fresh Protect
The Odor Defense Collection is something new from Proctor & Gamble that’s powered by enzymes and surfactants that eliminate odors rather than just masking them. It’s comprised of detergent pods and paired with Downy Fresh Protect that has Febreze Odor Defense beads in it. This dynamic duo removes dirt & residue, seals in odor protection and leaves a clean, fresh scent in its wake.
3. Roux Maison Sport Laundry Detergent
A fragrance-free, eco-friendly option that’s non-abrasive and rinses clean with no residue. Made of purified water, non-hazardous biodegradable surfactants and salts.
4. HEX Advanced Laundry Detergent
Formulated by a pro athlete who noticed his apparel and tech gear would still smell after washing. This led to a discovery that odor=bacteria. He partnered with scientists to develop the best cleaning, proactively protecting products for synthetic fabrics (though HEX is also recommended for all fabrics).
Beyond re-thinking your detergent, here are some additional tips:
• Wash your cycling apparel as quickly as you can after use or at least separate them from the rest of your laundry and let them air dry.
• To preserve the integrity of the performance fabric characteristics and allow the detergent maximum contact, we always recommend laundering inside out and in a cold wash.
• Forget the fabric softeners and dryer sheets – they can clog the fibers and reduce their ability to wick sweat and fight odors.
• Tumble dry on low.