Weekly Wellness: The best way to wash your workout gear

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COLUMBIA - You decided that this is THE year! The year that you start working out regularly! You even went out and bought a bunch of really nice workout gear to help you to "get in the mood." Now it's time to learn how to take care of it so it lasts you as long as it can.

Wearing cotton products for a workout just isn't ideal. The reason being that cotton absorbs and holds sweat during (and long after) workouts, making you feel heavy, hot and wet during exercise and then chilly when you stop moving.

These days most workout gear is made from "technical" fibers that will wick sweat away from your body and control temperature close to your skin. This wicking technology helps you to remain more comfortable while you are exercising.

One thing to keep in mind is that some technical fibers can be more delicate than good ole cotton so there are some general washing rules to follow to preserve them and give them a long, long life.

Here are the do's and don'ts of washing your workout gear:

  1. Don't use fabric softener. Fabric softener can often be blamed for keeping workout clothes from getting totally clean when they are in the wash cycle. Since it tends to coat these types of fibers, fabric softener prevents them from being able to absorb the water when being washed.
  2. Don't use too much detergent. Similar to the above-mentioned fabric softener, detergent can do the same thing to tech fabrics. Use slightly less than you would for your regular clothes.
  3. So use sport-specific detergent. There are a number of special detergents on the market formulated for washing workout clothes. If you find your duds are particularly stinky, this is a good thing to try.
  4. Don't let your gear sit around. Mold and mildew can begin to grow on workout gear that is left in a gym bag or laundry basket.
  5. Do soak stinky items. Put those seriously-stinky garments in a bucket of solution made from one part white vinegar to four parts water for a half hour prior to washing.
  6. Do use cold water. Since technical fibers are generally on the delicate side, in most cases it's best to use cold water to wash them. This will help maintain any special performance properties for many workouts to come.
  7. Don't cook your clothes. Tumble-dry low on your machine or line-dry are usually your best bets with workout gear.
  8. Don't submerge your kicks. Don't put athletic shoes in the washing machine. You can degrade the midsole cushioning and render them less protective.
  9. Do read the label. Always check the label to ensure you're maintaining the integrity of the performance fibers and any special attributes.