Over the years I have made several laundry mistakes, some of them fatal. On the night I delivered my first son, for example, I left my wet cycling gear in a plastic bag (let’s keep in mind that this was 15 years ago, a few years before recyclable bags became common place) and forgot about it – for about 4 weeks. Needless to say, those clothes went straight into the garbage.
Another time, while visiting my brother, I let days of wet running gear pile up on the tiled floor. The morning we left, I started to pick it up and found dozens (fortunately, only dozens) of ants scurrying underneath them. As soon as we got home, the clothes went straight into the wash.
I realized through these errors, though, that there are two simple ways to care for your running and workout gear to stretch out their life. First, I don’t leave wet clothes in a pile on the floor any more. They don’t dry. Layers of wet clothes trap moisture, which in turn, promotes bacteria and smell. So, as soon as I can after a workout, I hang up my clothes to dry. Then, I throw them in an open laundry basket with other dirty workout gear.
This is a simple trick that I have shared with the guys I run with. Last week, when our coach mentioned that his wet clothes were on the floor a day after our workout, there was a collective gasp. “What? You don’t hang up your wet clothes to dry? Haven’t I taught you guys anything?” Even my husband decided to start airing out his clothes and his hockey gear. When he gets home, he lets all of his equipment dry out in the garage to help keep the stink away (and freezing that stink in a cold, Canadian garage in the winter probably helps too).
Another easy trick is pack your wet gear in a towel or a reusable (and machine washable bag). Stuffing everything into a plastic bag usually means that the clothes stay wet and trap bacteria so that they smell that much worse when you pull them out. Rolling them into the towel that you used to change with or a cloth bag absorbs some of the moisture which, in turn, helps eliminate the spread of stink.
In the past few years, a few laundry soaps have been developed to specifically clean sports clothing. For example, Sport Suds is laundry detergent which is specifically for athletic clothing, Tide recently began to carry sports specific detergent, Sunlight boasts of a deep-clean wash. Honestly, I haven’t tried any of them. Every time I consider buying some, I remind myself that I really don’t need to. I can just hang up my clothes instead. By doing so, my athletic wear simply lasts longer; it doesn’t retain body odour the way it did many years ago. And, as an extra bonus, I no longer have the fear of finding ants hiding under my sweaty gear.