How to Wash Your Running Gear

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Learning how to wash your running gear might sound straightforward. But although you can just throw your running gear in the washer with everything else, to make it last, you should be more thoughtful about how you do it.

Plus, certain running gear needs extra TLC to get it clean. If you want to learn how to clean your gear, we cover all you need to know below…

Take notes and see how a bit of extra effort makes a difference!

How Often Should You Wash Your Running Clothes?

Your running clothes should be washed after every wear. Even if you feel like they’re still clean, small amounts of sweat can be absorbed into your clothes, which means there’s a higher likelihood of bacteria multiplying.

This can make your clothing smell bad. You might not notice it immediately when you put the dirty clothes on again, but once you start to sweat, you won’t be able to miss it.

There’s also a chance that the build-up of bacteria could cause damage to the fabric of the clothes, reducing the lifespan of your clothes.

You don’t necessarily need to wash your running clothes on the same day that you wear them. But you should definitely avoid wearing them more than once before they get washed.

Can You Wash Your Running Clothes With Regular Laundry?

You can put your running clothes in with your regular laundry, but you shouldn’t. Regular laundry detergent is designed for cotton and other common clothing materials. Running clothing is usually made of technical fabric and may not respond well to regular detergent.

While it might seem inconvenient, we recommend washing your running gear separately and with a detergent made specifically for athletic gear. This will not only clean them but extend their lifespan as well.

How to Wash Your Running Clothes

Both shirts and running pants absorb sweat, even if you only sweat a little. Here’s how to wash them properly.

Sort Your Clothes

It’s a good idea to wash similar materials together and bright colors separately from whites. You may want to wash all your shirts and pants together, but ultimately it’s up to you how you sort them.

Check the Care Labels

It’s an excellent idea to read the label on each one of your clothing items. These will give you a good insight into what you can and can’t do with that particular garment, which will also help you to understand how best to wash it.

Some things recommend hand-washing only, while others are okay to go into the washing machine but prefer a cold wash only. Double-check this before you go ahead and wash anything.

Pre-Treat Any Stains

If your clothing is stained, it’s a good idea to use a stain remover prior to washing. You can find stain removers designed for use on sports garments, or you can make your own with white vinegar and water—a ratio of 1 to 2.

Pour the remover solution onto the stain and work it into the fabric. Allow it to settle in for 10 to 15 minutes before washing.

Choose the Right Laundry Detergent

Opt for a sport-specific laundry detergent. These are designed specifically for technical fabrics, and they do a much better job cleaning these materials than regular detergent.

Turn Your Running Clothes Inside Out

Turning your clothing inside out means the inside of your garments will begin to fade in color before the outside does. If there’s any friction during washing, this will also occur on the inside of the garment, so there won’t be external damage.

Don’t Use Fabric Softener

Avoid using fabric softener if you’re washing your clothing in the washing machine. Fabric softener works by getting into the very fibers of your clothing so it can soften them. While this is great for certain materials, it’s not practical for running clothes.

Instead, it simply “blocks” the breathability of the fabric and prevents sweat and dirt from being washed away. Using fabric softener can make your running clothing smell musty and old.

Wash Your Running Clothes in Cold Water on the Gentle Cycle

Unless the washing instructions say something different, washing your running clothes in cold water on a gentle cycle is a good idea. Most running gear is made from technical fabrics, which are more fragile.

Heat and rough treatment can damage these fabrics, rendering your running gear’s technology useless. Opt for lighter, cooler, gentler everything when washing your running clothes!

Air-Dry Your Running Clothes

Exposing your running gear to direct heat can cause damage. Air-drying is the best option—leave them in a well-ventilated, well-protected area until dry. Avoid tumble-drying, leaving them in the sun, or using a hair dryer!

If you need to dry them faster, you can use a heater, but never hang your clothing directly over it. Simply place them near the heater to help them dry quicker.

How to Wash Your Sports Bras

Sports bras tend to hold onto a lot of sweat. We recommend giving it a wash or a rinse as soon as possible after your workout. If you’re showering after your workout, take it into the shower with you and give it a rinse so that the sweat doesn’t dry and set into it.

You can wash your bra in the washer—double-check the instructions, though—but you should avoid using fabric softener and stick to a gentle cycle. We also recommend using a mesh bag to avoid the bra getting caught up in other clothing and potentially stretching.

You don’t put it in the dryer afterward. The dryer can distort the shape of the bra and change the fit, reducing the amount of support the bra provides.

If your bra’s tag says to hand-wash, we recommend following those instructions. Also, try to lay it flat to dry or hang it by both straps so it’s hanging evenly.

How to Wash Your Running Shoes

You don’t need to wash your running shoes as often as your running clothes. It’s important that you leave your shoes to dry between each use, but you don’t need to give them a full wash after every run.

However, every few weeks or at least once a month, you should give your running shoes more of a proper clean. Here’s how.

Wipe Away Dirt and Mud With a Soft Brush

If there’s dried dirt or mud on your shoes, brush it away gently using a soft-bristled brush. You can do this after every use, but make sure the mud or dirt is dry, or you’ll only spread dirt.

Washing Your Running Shoes by Hand

When you decide to wash your shoes, we recommend washing them by hand and avoiding the washing machine. The machine is likely to damage the shoes even if it does clean them, so hand-washing is the better option.

You’ll need to remove the insole and laces first. You can soak these in a separate bucket of warm water and detergent or vinegar. Place your shoes in a bucket or sink of warm water—not hot water.

Allow the insole, laces, and shoes to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, take a soft-bristled toothbrush and clean all the tricky parts of the shoe where dirt has built up. You can also rub the laces and the insole to get rid of any dirt that may have built up on or in them.

Drain the sink or bucket and let the shoes sit for 30 minutes to an hour. You can squeeze the shoes a little to get rid of excess water. Scrunch up some newspaper and stuff it inside the damp shoes. This will help to absorb moisture.

Find a safe, warm place to air-dry your shoes. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight or too close to a heater, as these can damage the shoes. Be aware that they may take 2 to 3 days to dry out properly. Be patient.

Washing Running Accessories

Each running accessory is different, so make sure you know the best way to wash each one so you don’t accidentally damage anything.

Gloves

The first thing you should do is check the instructions that came with the gloves. This is the best way to ensure that you won’t damage them. If they’re machine-washable, we recommend using a mesh bag to separate them from other washing.

Choose a mild detergent and place the washing machine on a gentle cycle. If you’re hand-washing the gloves, use mild detergent and lukewarm water. However you wash them, make sure you air-dry them afterward.

Beanies

Beanies can be fragile depending on their material, so it’s also best to check the instructions first. You can hand-wash or machine-wash them but opt for mild detergent and cold water.

When air-drying it, lay the beanie flat rather than hanging it over something. This will help the beanie to keep its shape.

Hats

Hats differ vastly depending on their materials, so find out what the manufacturer recommends regarding cleaning. Spot-clean stains as they happen can help keep the hat as clean as possible over time.

Avoid using hot water to clean hats. Use lukewarm water and hand-wash your hats with mild detergent, one made for hats, if possible. Submerge the hat in the water and gently work your fingers over the sweaty or dirty areas to loosen the grime.

Scrub the hat lightly with a soft brush or sponge to work the dirt away more thoroughly. Once you’re done, rinse it thoroughly with cool water and place it over a head-shaped object to dry naturally. Avoid exposing it to heat.

Running Vests

Before washing your running vest, make sure you’ve emptied all of the pockets. Shake out any loose dirt as well. Fill a bath or spacious sink with lukewarm water and add a sport-specific detergent.

Submerge the vest in the bath or sink and rub it with your fingers to loosen any dirt. You can scrub it lightly with a soft brush for a deeper clean. Don’t forget to wash inside the pockets and scrub the zippers.

Once you’ve washed it thoroughly, rinse it with clean, cool water to remove all the detergent. Hang it up to dry in a well-ventilated area and avoid using direct heat as it could damage the vest’s material.

Running Belts

Once again, it’s a good idea to check what the manufacturer recommends regarding washing your running belt. Don’t forget to make sure it’s empty before washing it.

Spot-clean stains as they arise, and your belt will stay clean for much longer. When you do need to deep-clean it, submerge it in lukewarm water and rub the belt with your fingers to ease any dirt.

Rinse thoroughly to remove detergent and lie the belt on a flat surface to air-dry. Like other running gear, avoid using direct heat to dry it quicker.

Hydration Packs

Make sure the pack is empty. Disassemble the various parts of the hydration pack for easier cleaning.

To clean the hydration bladder, wash it thoroughly with soap and warm water. Make sure to rinse it thoroughly when you’re done, as you don’t want a soapy residue leaving a taste in your mouth when you drink water again.

Use a bottle brush to clean the tubing, also with soap and warm water. Rinse it well and leave each separate piece to dry properly before reassembling it.

Can You Put Your Running Gear in the Dryer?

We don’t recommend putting any of your running gear in the dryer, as heat can damage technical fabrics. If you place your running clothing in the dryer, the technology may not work well afterward.

You might find that the clothing no longer wicks away moisture easily, or that it begins to smell more than it used to. The color may also fade faster, and the material may wear away more easily.

How Can You Prevent Your Running Gear From Smelling?

Odor is caused by bacteria in the clothing, which break down the oils and sweat on your skin, causing a reaction that gives off an unpleasant scent. The best way to stop your running gear from smelling is to make sure to wash it as soon as possible after exercise.

It’s also a good idea to wash every piece of running gear correctly. Using the wrong detergent can actually make the smell worse, and washing your clothing in hot weather can damage the fibers and make them more prone to holding onto smells.

How Do You Get Rid of Sweat Stains on Your Running Gear?

There are a few ways to get rid of sweat stains. You can use a 1:1 solution of hydrogen peroxide to water for white clothing. Soak the stain for 30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and let it dry naturally. You can repeat it if the stain remains.

Alternatively, soak your running clothes for 30 minutes in a mixture of 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts water. It’s best to put them straight into the washing machine after this, but if you can’t, rinse them with clean water, squeeze them out, and place them in the hamper until you wash them.

How Long Should You Wait to Wash Running Gear After a Workout?

We recommend washing your clothing as soon as possible after a workout, but we understand it’s not always possible or practical. If you’re exercising every day, you might not want to do a load of washing every day.

You can leave them for a few days in your hamper before washing them. But if you’re a heavy sweater, you might want to rinse your clothes and squeeze them out after your workout before placing them in the hamper.

Can You Put Running Shoes in the Machine?

Some shoes will be able to go in the washing machine, but it’s not advisable. Check the washing instructions on the shoes before deciding, but we highly recommend hand-washing.

The heat of the washing machine can do damage, but so can the rough movement of the washing machine. Washing in the machine can compromise your shoes’ stability, features, and protection.

How Do You Wash Technical Fabrics?

Technical fabrics should be washed in cooler temperatures—below 30 degrees—and using a sports-specific detergent. It’s usually safer to hand-wash these kinds of fabrics, but it’s a good idea to read the instructions thoroughly first.

How Can You Safely Wash Waterproof Jackets?

You should wash waterproof jackets separately from other garments. You should also only wash two waterproof jackets together at one time and turn them inside out.

Check the instructions on the jacket before choosing how to wash it. Generally, you’ll use a specific detergent. Run the washing machine on a cycle of about 30 degrees, and make sure to air-dry the garments when they’re finished.

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.