Cheap Tricks: $4 Home Remedies for Icky, Stinky Gym Clothes

Photo by Kontrec/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Kontrec/iStock / Getty Images

You use your gym clothes more frequently than any other garments in your closet—except, perhaps, your favorite jeans. Simply washing workout clothes, however, is not enough to keep a diehard fitness fanatic’s gear in tip-top shape. Sure, you can spend a lot of money on detergents formulated to eliminate the odors from your Lulu faves, but you probably have a cheaper solution sitting in your pantry right now.

Equinox trainer Michael Wilbert clued me into grocery store laundry alternatives years ago, but—at the time—I thought my workout gear smelled just fine with standard detergent. Fast-forward to this fall, when I started teaching about ten indoor cycling classes each week. Suddenly, my fragrance-free Tide wasn’t getting the job done. So it was back to drawing board…and Michael’s recs.

White Vinegar

I’m starting with my favorite because white vinegar has been the solution to every cleaning problem I’ve had this year. Smelly gym clothes and cycling shoes? Not anymore. Dusty Burning Man gear? Clean. Michael recommends adding one cup of vinegar per gallon of warm water. I take a more liberal approach, pouring a detergent cap of white vinegar into the wash with my regular detergent. And I always wash my clothes in cold water.  

Whether you use Michael’s methodical approach or my haphazard measurements, white vinegar works.

Baking soda

Michael suggests adding about 1/2 cup of baking soda to your regular detergent when washing stinky clothes. Just toss it into the water when your washer is filling. I experimented with baking soda a little more over the summer when trying to save a well-loved pair of cycling shoes. For my shoes, I made a solution of water and baking soda, and liberally spritzed the inside of the shoes. While the baking soda worked, it also left a gritty residue in my shoes. Lesson learned: only use baking soda to clean items that will benefit from a rinse cycle. 


Image via Wikimedia/Creative Commons

Image via Wikimedia/Creative Commons

Lemon juice

Lemon juice is a first-rate cleaning agent, which is why so many commercial cleaning products use it. Because it can work as a bleaching agent, you’ll want to add lemon juice to the water before you add your clothes to the wash, just as you would with chlorine bleach. Your clothes will come out citrus fresh.

Dryer sheets

While white vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice will help remove odors, dryer sheets will keep the bad smells at bay. I’ve heard several instructors suggest stuffing your cycling shoes or boxing gloves with dryer sheets to keep them smelling better. Really, this could work to neutralize trapped odors for any kind of enclosed gear. 

Workout gear is expensive. You may have to replace running shoes every six months, (or less), but proper care can extend the life of your cycling shoes, weight training gloves, hand wraps, and gloves.

Got another cheap laundry trick? Hit me up at