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This article is part of CNN Underscored’s “The Reset,” an editorial package featuring all of our articles aimed at giving you the information and product recommendations to help achieve any and all new year resolutions.

A new year brings new fitness goals, and maybe even some cute new workout outfits to encourage you on your way to achieving those goals. But with those goals comes a whole new problem: Your gym clothes need to be washed, and they need to be washed in a very specific way to ensure they last a long, long time and, more importantly, don’t come out still smelling like last week’s Peloton ride.

We consulted with experts to ask about the dos and don’ts of washing gym clothes, from the right washer settings to use, to the best detergents for the job … and what to do about the dreaded permastink.

Sorting gym clothes

Getting your gym clothes as clean as possible begins right when you take those sweaty togs off.

"It’s important to avoid letting wet, sweaty clothes sit in a bag for too long," Jennifer Chevchek, vice president of design for Fabletics, says. "Letting your clothes dry out after a workout is key to not letting bacteria build up." A mesh laundry hamper that allows air to circulate can also help damp clothes to dry out, keeping odor-causing bacteria from taking root in the fabric. 

Before tossing that sweaty gear in a breathable hamper, turn it inside out. "To keep the prints and colors vibrant, it helps to turn your workout clothes inside out prior to washing," Chevchek says. The inside of workout gear is also where body soils like sweat and dead skin that contribute to odors build up, so washing clothes inside out allows the water and detergent to provide a deeper clean. 

A divided hamper can help cut down on tedious wash day sorting, which is important when washing workout clothes, because they should not be washed alongside towels, heavy sweats, fleece and other lint-y fabrics. "We recommend that you avoid washing workout gear alongside products with coarse fabric such as denim or apparel that has hardware like zippers or Velcro," Chevchek adds.

How to wash and dry gym clothes

Washing workout gear is straightforward, and less is more — you may be surprised to find out that the biggest mistake people make when washing gym clothes is using too much laundry detergent.

Liquid laundry detergent gives users the most control over dosing, allowing you to avoid using too much detergent. Chevchek says, "We recommend machine washing in cold water with like colors." Use the gentle or delicate cycle, and don't overstuff the drum of the machine so that the clothes have room to move, allowing water and detergent to fully penetrate the fibers. 

When it comes to detergent, you don't need a specialty product for washing gym gear — but one can be nice to have. While the type of detergent you use isn't important, how much detergent you use is important. "Don't use too much detergent!" says Cheryl Nelson, a lifestyle expert who shares her preparedness tips on her website, Prepare With Cher. "Too much detergent makes it difficult to rinse your garments thoroughly, which can lead to more buildup that will trap sweat and fungi." Excess detergent will leave product buildup that will contribute to lingering odors in clean clothes, and lend a dingy appearance to your workout outfits.

Similarly, there are products you should avoid using entirely when laundering gym gear. "Be sure to avoid fabric softener or bleach," Chevchek says. "Most fabric softeners contain silicone, which can block the tiny pores in the fabric and diminish its moisture-inhibiting capabilities." While traditional liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets should not be used when washing workout clothes, new products, like Downy's Rinse & Refresh, are good alternatives.

Chevchek recommends using a mesh lingerie washing bag to extend the life of sports bras, adding that "removing the cups from sports bras will also help to keep their shape and stay in great condition."

The experts we spoke to agree that air drying is the best choice for gym clothes. "We recommend hanging or laying flat to dry. We also recommend keeping bright-colored fabrics separate when wet," Chevchek says, to avoid dye transfer and staining from bright-colored clothing on lighter-colored items.

If you machine dry, always opt for the low- or no-heat setting to help preserve elasticity and avoid malodor. "Hot air, like hot water, can also break down fabric elasticity, leading to shrinkage and a shorter garment life span," Nelson says, adding that "hot air can also amplify odors." Dryer balls can help to speed up drying time by moving garments around in the drum, increasing airflow in the drum.

How to treat — and avoid! — the dreaded ‘permastink’

If you’ve followed all these guidelines, you should never have a problem with permastink — the term for when freshly washed gym clothes come out of the wash still smelling like last week’s workout.

When malodor due to product buildup does happen, Nelson offers this simple fix: "Add 1/2 to 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to the wash, and use half as much detergent." The vinegar will help to break down the buildup and eliminate odors that have gotten trapped in the fibers, and because you're trying to wash out an excess of detergent, you'll only need half of a regular dose to get the clothes clean.

Bottom line

Understanding the reasons why workout clothes require special handling when it comes to getting them clean, and ensuring they last a long time, can help you to make informed decisions. Knowledge, after all, is power! But perhaps you just want a simple list of what to do — and what not to do — when it’s time to wash your favorite workout pants. Sure thing:

  • Let sweaty clothes dry out.
  • Turn them inside out.
  • Avoid washing gym gear alongside heavy, embellished or linty items.
  • Wash gym clothes in cold water using the delicate or gentle cycle.
  • Put sports bras in protective mesh washing bags.
  • Don’t use too much detergent.
  • Avoid using fabric softener or bleach.
  • Air dry or machine dry on a low- or no-heat setting.
  • To avoid lingering odors in otherwise clean clothes, don’t use too much detergent.
  • Never use liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets when washing workout gear.
  • Air dry or use a low-heat dryer cycle.
  • Use white vinegar in the wash to treat lingering odors.