Let’s face it: When we work out, we ALL get a little sweaty. Whether you’re a regular devotee of HIIT workouts or you just like to chill out with a good active recovery sesh, it’s important to keep all of your workout gear clean and germ-free. The question is: What’s the best way to do that? Should you wash your yoga pants after every visit to the gym? What’s the best way to clean your gym bag? Keep everything smelling sweet (and make your gear last A LOT longer) with these helpful cleaning and maintenance tips.
The big question on everyone’s minds is, of course, how often you need to wash your workout clothes. The answer is a pretty resounding *after EVERY sweaty gym session.* Bacteria can multiply on your workout gear, primarily because of the heat and sweat generated by physical activity.
The more often you wash your clothes, though, the more quickly they’ll lose elasticity, color, and durability. For this reason, you’ll probably want to reserve one or two outfits specifically for low-intensity activities like stretching or foam rolling. Since you won’t be generating a lot of sweat, you don’t need to wash that gear EVERY time you wear it. But for any other workouts, unfortunately, you’ll have to bite the bullet and do some washing.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to extend your gear’s life. Fitness expert Christine Bullock says you can ease wear and tear by following a few simple best practices. Make sure to separate whites from colors and wash similar fabrics together. Always use the gentle cycle and do NOT use hot water or put your gear into the dryer. High heat will cause the fabric to lose elasticity and color, so hanging everything to dry will be your best bet.
Gym shoes can be a major investment, so it’s important to take good care of them. Throwing them into the washing machine is a big no-no, according to Nike.
Instead, if your shoes are looking a little worse for the wear, clean them by brushing them with a soft-bristled shoe brush. In a pinch, a toothbrush will also do just fine. Then, mix some lukewarm water with laundry detergent, dip a sponge into the mixture, and use the sponge to clean the shoe. Remove the soles from the inside of your shoe and clean them the exact same way. Finally, use warm water and your sponge to remove any remaining detergent before allowing your shoes to air dry.
Your gym bag is a deceptively clean-looking place, but if we’re being real, it’s likely to be one of the main hotspots for bacterial growth. Some experts recommend washing your gym bag once a week, but this will depend on how often you work out and whether or not you carry dirty gym clothes around in it.
When you do decide to wash it, most canvas or cotton bags can go right into the washing machine. Once again, you’ll want to use cold water and allow the bag to air dry.
If you have a different kind of gym bag, check the care label for washing instructions. If it’s machine washable, go right ahead and pop it in. But if it’s not, a sponge bath like the one you gave your gym shoes will do the trick.
If you do any kind of hot yoga, you’ll know just how sweaty your yoga mat is likely to get. Even if you’re more of a gentle yoga kinda gal, it’s important to clean your mat regularly to keep it bacteria-free.
After every yoga session (or — let’s be realistic — every two or three if you’re just doing some gentle stretching), spray a natural, all-purpose cleanser on your mat and wipe it down with a cloth or paper towel.
“If you have a mat made from natural tree rubber, using a 50/50 mix of water and vinegar is a great way to naturally disinfect and restore the rubber’s texture and color,” advises Manduka brand guru Stacie Leavitt.
Weights and Medicine Balls
If you regularly use hand weights, medicine balls, or dumbbells, it’s a good idea to disinfect them every once in awhile. If you’re the only person using the weights and you haven’t recently been sick, once every two or three weeks should be just fine. Simply spritz a cleansing spray on them and wipe it off.
And now for the final — and perhaps grossest — equipment on our list: your earbuds. Earbuds might not seem horrifically dirty in theory, but think about it. They’re literally sitting right in your ears, making them prone to collecting earwax and all other manner of delicious (*sarcasm*) ingredients.
First of all, be sure to detach your earbuds from any wiring or electrical sources. If you have detachable silicone covers on your earbuds, remove them and clean them right alongside the other parts of your buds. Next, use a dry, clean toothbrush to remove any earwax or residue that may be caked on the outside (or into the holes). After you’re satisfied that everything has been removed, use a damp towelette to wipe around the outside of the earbuds until they’re squeaky clean. DON’T submerge them in water or get them too wet.
Now it’s time to head to the gym and get everything dirty all over again.
How often do you clean your workout gear? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!
(Photos via Getty and Brit + Co)