How to rid your workout clothes of 'permastink'

Dan DiClerico

As the weather turns cold, chances are you're exercising at the gym or health club more often. And that means your workout clothes are probably spending long days in the locker between washes. Especially if you use synthetic workout gear with wicking fibers, you may be noticing some particularly rank odors—even after you do finally run the clothing through the wash. The condition is known as "permastink," and if left unchecked, it can definitely make you less welcome in the workout room. Fortunately, there are ways to combat the stink.

Consumer Reports' laundry detergent tests, as well as separate industry studies, have shown that soaking smelly workout gear in water with detergent and sodium percarbonate (aka OxiClean) can help reduce odors. Several products marketed as sports detergents are specially formulated with these ingredients to tackle tough odors. We tested one of them several years back—WIN High Performance Sport Detergent—and found it to be most effective when clothes were soaked for two hours in a half cap of the detergent and 2 gallons of warm water before washing.

Soaking helps eliminate permastink because it gives the detergent time to separate body oils from the fabric while the sodium percarbonate tackles the foul odors. Most washing machines have a soak cycle intended for this type of pretreatment. Any detergent that contains Oxi should give you results. One very good option from our current laundry detergent Ratings is OxiClean Laundry Detergent, 14 cents per load, which was also tough on grass stains and blood in our laundry detergent tests. You might also try the All Free Clear Oxi Active, 14 cents per load. It scored a bit lower overall, but it was particularly tough on sweat stains, which of course is where permastink begins.

—Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico on Twitter)



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