With your plate full of fitness classes, boardroom meetings, meditation sessions, and happy hours, you may have perfected the art of shortcuts that allow you to seamlessly transition from one activity to another—a little spritz of perfume here, a spray of some dry shampoo there.
But what about your activewear? You stock up on underwear to avoid doing laundry, but there are only so many leggings, sports bras, and tanks that a girl can own. (Trust me, I’ve tried to push the limit on this one.)
To find out how much re-wearing is too much, I turned to Mary Gagliardi, AKA Clorox’s Dr. Laundry (seriously, that’s her job title), a laundry expert and product scientist who seriously knows her way around the washer and dryer.
“As a professional in the laundry industry, I obviously will recommend washing after every wear,” she explains. (Insert sad face emoji.) “But let’s face it, we are busy, busy people and sometimes the sniff test is the way to go in deciding if we can get away with a second wearing of an item.”
To get to the bottom of the to-wash-or-not-to-wash debate, I quizzed Gagliardi on her tried-and-tested techniques—and begged her to admit her laundry exceptions. And to make things a little more interesting (and realistic), I polled the Well+Good staff to find out the truth behind their dirtiest laundry secrets. From a team who works out regularly, I knew I’d get the stinky truth.
Scroll down to see how often you really need to wash your activewear—plus, the laundry rules the Well+Good staff live by.
Tanks and tees
Gagliardi’s advice: “Maybe a second wearing after a low-impact workout, especially if you wear a separate sports bra. But if your tank top has a built in sports bra and that’s all you wear, then you’ll need to wash it sooner.”
Anonymous Well+Good staffer advice: “If my top is a bit sweaty, I usually hang it up in front of a fan and air it out…and then wear it again.”
Gagliardi’s washing tips: “Just about every care label says ‘machine wash cold.’ In the garment industry, that means up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, so depending on your clothes washer and how far it is from your hot water heater, it may actually be appropriate to select the warm cycle. The warmer the water, the better the cleaning, so it’s worth it to select a warmer temperature if you can.”
Leggings, yoga pants, and track pants
Gagliardi’s advice: “When leggings are black, it’s so much easier to put off washing them. But odors don’t hide just because the fabric is black, so maybe only a second wearing after a low-impact workout would be okay.”
Anonymous Well+Good staffer advice: “When I re-wear, I feel like I could be giving myself buttne (butt acne, TMI), so I try to always wash if I can.”
Gagliardi’s washing tips: “Their biggest issue is the legs getting tangled up during agitation in the wash cycle, and it’s an issue in both top- and front-loading washers. To prevent twisting and tangling, just pop them in a large lingerie bag.”
Gagliardi’s advice: “Same as leggings, but when they are loose-fitting, you can get away with a little bit more wear. If they’re tight spandex though, never re-wear.”
Anonymous Well+Good staffer advice: “For some reason, I don’t think of shorts in the same vein as leggings and very rarely wash them—gross, I know—but one time, I wore shorts to a SoulCycle class and left them in the plastic bag overnight and when I took them out to wash, there was mold! Needless to say, I’ve started washing them much more frequently.”
Gagliardi’s washing tips: “These can be handled similarly to tank tops and T-shirts—no skinny straps or long legs to worry about.”
Gagliardi’s advice: “If you break a sweat while working out, your sports bra should definitely get washed before being worn again. Having at least two—sorry, I know these can be very expensive, especially hard-to-fit sizes—or ideally three will give you some flexibility on waiting to wash a sports bra and still having a clean one to wear. It helps that these are usually always synthetic, meaning they will dry quickly if you need to resort to a hand-washing session.”
Anonymous Well+Good staffer advice: “I have a larger chest and don’t have many sports bras that I love, so I’ll spritz my sports bras with a little fabric freshener and hang them over the side of my hamper or in front of my fan to air out. I probably go an average of three times before washing them—eek!”
Gagliardi’s washing tips: “So many sports bras now have multiple skinny straps, so be sure to use a lingerie bag to avoid tangling that can be hard on the fabric—and reduce cleaning of other items in the load. In order to maintain moisture-wicking properties, fabric softener is typically not recommended.”
Gagliardi’s advice: “Please, oh please, only wear socks once! This will also help your shoes not get smelly so fast.”
Anonymous Well+Good staffer advice: “I’m not going to lie, I’m guilty of re-wearing probably every kind of activewear at least once, but even I will never re-wear socks!”
Gagliardi’s washing tips: “No need to baby these items—you want to get them clean!”
Gagliardi’s advice: “You just have to clean the outsides as often as you like, if they get really muddy or something. The insole is generally what gets the smelliest, but since your foot usually blocks the smell, cleaning this is personal preference as well.”
Anonymous Well+Good staffer advice: “I’ve never cleaned my sneakers—are we supposed to? Usually by the time they get super disgusting, I’m ready for a new pair anyway.”
Gagliardi’s washing tips: “There are so many different brands and materials used in running shoes that it’s hard to give a one-size-fits-all guide. But generally you can just clean the outside, since they’re mostly made out of rubber and you can remove the insole to spritz it with a disinfectant.”
Feeling like you need a few more sports bras to space out your laundry days? These are the best ones under $30. Another thing you definitely need to start cleaning more is your yoga mat—they’re pretty disgusting and might even make you sick! Find out an all-natural and easy way to clean them before your next yoga class.