I Can Never Seem to Get My Workout Clothes Clean—Here’s What Finally Worked for Me

Pros of working out five to six times a week: overall health boost, workout friends, and tons of endorphins. Cons: My laundry bin perpetually exists in a state of mostly full, leaving me with this frustratingly unsolvable puzzle: How the heck do I get my workout clothes clean?

Disclaimer: I'm not walking around constantly smelling like I just left a workout class, mind you. But my athletic clothes don't quite have the laundry detergent commercial vibes I'm after (you know the ones, with white curtains blowing in the breeze and puppies snuggling into baskets of fluffy towels).

The advice I’ve found has been less than helpful: Wash your sweaty clothes immediately after wearing them (who has time for that??), use vinegar (no thanks), add a capful of bleach (nope, too scared of accidental white spots), or use extra-strength detergent (still no, since I'm trying to go plant-based with my cleaning products).

"We don’t believe people should have to choose between clean clothes and a plant-based product."

Seeing as my trial-and-error methods with natural detergents have failed me, it was time to call in the professionals. So I hit up Laura Goodman, senior scientist for Procter & Gamble Fabric Care, for her recs on products and cleaning methods to transform my workout wardrobe from funky to fresh. 

Taking my desire for a plant-based detergent into account, Goodman recommended Tide purclean™—an eco-friendly detergent made from 75 percent plant-based ingredients.

"Tide purclean™ is the first and only plant-based laundry detergent that has the cleaning power people expect from Tide," she says. "We don’t believe people should have to choose between clean clothes and a plant-based product." Feeling incredibly seen, I decided to take it for a whirl—here's what happened.

Keep reading to find out the secret behind how to wash workout clothes with plant-based detergent (and actually get them clean).

how to wash workout clothes
Photo: Tide purclean™

Step one was figuring out what I was doing wrong—because apparently doing laundry isn't as simple as dumping my clothes in the machine and hitting start. To make me feel like slightly less of a failure at adulting, Goodman said improperly washing workout clothes is a common laundry mistake she sees.

Her recommendation? Air-dry my workout gear before putting it in my hamper, and ditch those plastic bags studios provide for sweaty clothes post-class because mildew smells can develop in just a few hours. *Mentally calculates how often I've left clothes in there for a full day.*

"Body soils like sweat, salt, dead skin cells, and sebum (body oils) account for 70 percent of all laundry soils and are especially heavy in workout gear," Goodman explains. "Body soils that are left behind by improper laundering will accumulate and break down over time into very small, very stinky molecules, which provide a strong, sweaty smell."

"Body soils that are left behind by improper laundering will accumulate and break down over time into very small, very stinky molecules."

When it comes time to actually wash my clothes, it turns out I was missing another important step: pre-treating (#NeverHaveIEver). The good news for me and my clearly very simple laundry routine is that I don't need to buy a bunch of specialized products.

Tide purclean™ can be used as a pre-laundering stain remover too. All I had to do was pour a little detergent on problem areas (like under the arms of t-shirts and tanks) in advance, and then toss those items into the washer with the rest of the load.

"Leaving the detergent on the stain will give your wash that extra boost of cleaning power and freshen up those hard to refresh workout clothes," Goodman says. Super simple, even for me.

Finally, the water temp. For best results, Goodman recommends using warm water to help dislodge those aforementioned stinky molecules that get stuck in your clothes. But don't stress if the care label calls for cold water. "Tide purclean™ contains special enzymes and surfactants that provide a deep clean even in cold water," she explains. 

Once I implemented all her tips, the difference in my clothes was clear. The musty, barely clean smell was replaced by a fresh honey lavender scent. Cue puppy-on-towel montage.

In partnership with Tide purclean

Top photo: Getty Images/Maskot

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