This article was originally published by our friends at Dirty Labs.
Many of us make the mistake of washing and drying our athletic wear and technical apparel as we do everything else we wear. But activewear is not like the rest of your closet — technical apparel is often made from synthetic fabrics containing stretch or special properties and technologies like moisture-wicking and waterproofing, either integrated into their fabric fibers or applied as a coating.
How Not To Wash
Since activewear also happens to get dirtier than the rest of your attire, hot water and heavy agitation might seem like the right approach to fully remove sweat after a hard workout session, or to get rid of that activewear odor that never seems to go away — or what we like to call “permastank.” But hot water is not great for these types of technical fabrics. It can distort your garment and damage elasticity, not to mention damaging special qualities like the fabric’s moisture-wicking power.
Fabric softeners and dryer sheets can also damage these moisture-wicking and water-proofing technologies. Conventional fabric softeners and dryer sheets work by coating fabrics with a layer of fat to make clothes and fabrics feel and appear softer. Fatty matters are deposited onto the surface of fabrics, and lowers the material's surface energy, which makes water and sweat no longer capable of wicking through the capillary channels made in the synthetic fibers. The result is that sweat becomes trapped inside rather than vaporizing through the capillary channels, reducing the fabric’s overall breathability.
What To Do Instead
We recommend washing activewear and synthetic fabrics separately in cold or lukewarm water and in a gentle to normal cycle, without fabric softener. To make activewear last longer, drying under lower temperatures without dryer sheets, or line drying these materials will go a long way, and will help keep these high-tech fabrics intact. The additional heat and agitation from the dryer has similar damaging effects as a heavy-duty, hot water wash, which can hurt the performance and longevity of the synthetic fibers in your activewear.
And while the idea of using a cold-water, gentle wash to get sweaty activewear clean might be unimaginable right now, an enzyme-driven detergent solves this problem. Traditional detergents rely on hot water and agitation to remove stains. The hot water helps activate the cleaning agents so they are more efficacious and the increased agitation improves the chances of the cleaning agents coming across a stain. By using a formula that’s optimized for cold water, and one that does not rely on heavy agitation for stain removal, you’ll be extending the life of all your favorite machine washable garments. Activewear included.