Stretched out leggings fall into the same category as threadbare sports bras and running shorts with a worn waistbands: Unfit for fitness. Whether you’re running, squat-jumping, or attempting to hold a crow pose, nothing is more distracting during a workout than constantly having to pull up your pants. The easy, obvious solution is to replace them when they start to sag, but at $80-plus a pop that can turn into a pricey process—and quick. Thankfully, there’s a way to avoid the sag all together, and it’s all in the way you wash.
First things first: Consult the garment care label to make sure you’re working with something that can, in fact, be thrown into the washing machine (otherwise, the best option is to hand wash). No doubt, odor is one of the biggest laundry concerns that you’re dealing with, and while your instinct might be to blast those smells away with hot water, that could actually be causing your leggings to gain a bit more stretch than you’d like.
“A lot of these fitness garments contain elastane—that’s that stretchy spandex material—and the cold water helps not only the color preservation, but also helps with preserving the elastane fibers over time,” says Jennifer Ahoni, senior scientist with Tide. “In addition to washing in cold, you want to minimize drying them with heat as much as possible. So either line dry, lay flat to dry, or tumble dry on very low. Because like the heat in the water, the heat from the dryer can damage those fibers.”
Now that you have your stretch situation under control, how do you deal with odor? Picking the right detergent is key and you can check all the boxes and even help prevent your leggings from stretching too much with the right formula. Many nowadays say that they’re for sport or active lifestyles and contain potent odor neutralizers specifically made for stretchy fabrics. You can also always go the pantry route, and add baking soda to the load.
Separate your workout clothes from any other fabrics (especially denim), turn them inside out to ensure that the grossest, sweatiest parts are getting the brunt of the washing, and zip up the zippers to avoid abrasion. Then, run your load and choose your means of drying. From here on out, your stretchy pants will now keep their stretch for life.
Another little known laundry hack you definitely haven’t tried yet? Using lemons to brighten up your whites. And to up your leggings game even more, try one of these personalized picks from Soulcycle.
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