When fabrics are made with sweat-wicking materials, fabric softeners and fabric conditioners can potentially interfere with that technology and make them smell—bad. It’s not unlike what happens to your skin when you put the wrong things on your complexion. “Think of it essentially clogging pores,” explains Tide scientist Jennifer Ahoni. “Pores are clogged with fabric conditioner so they can no longer wick away the sweat.”
This could a big problem, because that sweat-wicking technology (which more than likely comes with a hefty price tag) can render the dryness-promoting technology null and void by “attacking” the performance of the garment. That means it as you sweat, because the garment’s pores are clogged so to speak, you won’t benefit from the fabric’s ability to keep you dry. Because of that more sweat can accumulate and leave you with a ultra-sweaty (and stinky) post-workout moment.
Here’s the catch: This doesn’t happen with every sport-focused fabric, so you don’t have to swear off the stuff all together if you haven’t noticed a problem. “I always like to tell people with their fitness attire, don’t necessarily assume you can’t use fabric conditioner,” she says. However if your gym clothes have developed an ahem odor that lingers past the next wash, it might be something that you consider.
So what happens if you test the theory and then notice that your nose is picking up something funky? It’s time to start battling the stench. Fitfluencer Lee Tilghman from Lee From America adds 1/2 cup of baking soda to her wash, because it help kill the smell. And nowadays, there are laundry detergents aplenty meant specially targeted at getting out odors such as the Tide Plus Febreeze Sport Odor Defense.
If you’re not willing to gamble with the scent of your clothes (you have an army of people who are right there with you), think about the activities that you’ll be doing when you’re wearing them. Low- or no-sweat activities like meditation, yoga, or Pilates might mean that you throw it into the mix, while perhaps you keep your running and cycling tights separate. For the health of your leggings (oh, and your nose).
To reduce the stink of your workout gear, try these super-simple laundry solutions, which may actually change your life. And to make the whole wash-and-dry process suck marginally less, stuff your dirties into a chic hamper.
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