How to Wash Your Running Gear and Shoes

Natalie Cecconi
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Gloves, and Tees.

For athletic bras and shorts, use a bottle with a spray nozzle. Make sure the spray nozzle reaches all the nooks and crannies.

For shirts, hats, and gloves, fill a tub one-third of the way full with cold water, and mix in 2 to 3 tablespoons of detergent. Add your workout clothes, and gently knead the clothes for about 20 seconds. Allow the dirty clothes to soak in the tub for 3 to 5 minutes. If you need to get out some extra dirt, gently rub your hands on them.

Rinse with fresh cold water, and gently press out the water.

Hang the clothes to air dry.

If you’re in a rush, then use a blow dryer on a low-heat setting to get the clothes dry quickly. This will not damage the clothes, and it’s the best way to dry workout clothes without shrinking them.


This is not about the process of getting dirty but about how to get them clean.

Believe me, the longer you keep sweaty clothes, the smellier they will get. However, the smell is not the only issue.

If you do not wash clothes after a run, the salt from your skin will start to break down the fabric. Cotton is particularly at risk of this.

Sure, you can always buy new running clothes but getting them is not as easy as it sounds.

First of all, what you think cheap is not always cheap. You’d be surprised at how expensive cheap clothes can be.

Second, a reasonably priced pair of running shoes usually only lasts half a year and you’ll need at least two.

Sure, you can expand that time or money with proper cleaning and care. Your options are further limited if you like to run long distances or in hot weather. Washing fabric articles is not just for getting them clean.

It can also be the best to help extend their life if you do it right.


Running shoes get dirty as you run, obviously, so cleaning is important. Commercial shoe cleaners can be your best friends. Always check that you carefully follow the manufacturers’ instructions.

But we know that you’re on the run, literally, and may not have your shoe cleaner on you. What do you do then? Face it, no running gear can be as dirty as a pair of well-worn running shoes!

Here is what you should do:

If you’re at home, water and a brush will get you a long way. Once you get to the shower, do brush the shoes thoroughly, both inside and outside.

If you’re on the go, remove the shoes and obviously don’t put your feet in there as it’s not the right place.

Or if you have a water bottle with you, fill it with water and give your shoes a good rinse.


You should never be in a hurry when trying to get rid of bacteria on your shoes and running gear. A good clean should be done slowly and with a lot of admiration of the dirt being washed away.

If you're in a rush then stop washing these items in the sink because it just won't do the job.

You need to take out your stuff and get the washing machine and the dishwashing detergent ready.

Step 1

Take your shoes out of the bottom of your bag and get ready to do at least one rinse cycle, preferably two.

Step 2

Fill up the machine with cold water.

Step 3

Pour in some detergent to the water. Don't add anything extra because the detergent already has enough stain removers in it.

Make sure to use a little more than you think you should. If you are at all concerned with wasting detergent, don't be; you will make back the money out of your next professional cleaning of your gear.

Step 4

Let the shoes soak for at least an hour, preferably two, because this will help soften up the soles, which can otherwise get scratched off.

Step 5

Once you get the machine to finish your final rinse cycle, you are ready to put them in the wash. Set the temperature as cold as it gets and then put in the appropriate amount of time.

Uppers and Insoles

Remove any laces and protect them by getting them off your shoes.

Place your shoes and running gear on a gentle cycle and run them through with cold water. Soak the shoes for 15 to 20 minutes in cold water, then turn them inside out and drain the water. Toss your running gear back into the washing machine and run another cold water cycle. Launder your gear again, but this time add in a pre-wash laundry detergent. Tumble dry on a low heat cycle and line dry when possible. If you do not have a clothes dryer, hang your laces out in the fresh air.


If the smell doesn’t get out, you will inevitably return to having smelly running gear. But if the smell stays in, you run the risk of it spreading to other areas of the house. That’s why it’s important not only to wash your running clothes and shoes, but to do it properly.

These are some tips to help you wash your running gear and not have it come out smelling like you just finished a hard run rather than before.

Get a Clean Sport Wash Bag

There is nothing worse than taking your item out of the washer, only to find that it didn’t come out smelling clean. You have probably noticed that most household detergents contain perfumes, which are big offenders when it comes to retaining the smell of sweat.

Get a Sport Wash bag to set your wash items aside from the rest of your laundry to prevent them from soaking up any of the perfumes from your other clothes.

Cold Water

Although it may seem counterintuitive to wash something you sweated in in cold water, it is the best way to prevent the smell from returning.

Cold water doesn’t let the smell linger in the fabric, and also kills bacteria.

Sanitize Your Gear

Washing Machine – the last, final resort

Your running clothes and shoes are soaked in sweat and probably smell pretty bad by now so don’t put them straight into the washing machine! Strip them off and put them in a bucket of cold water, first.

Now, prepare a washing machine batch containing 3-5 tablespoons of laundry detergent and your usual pillows of softener or sheets of fabric softener sheet (if you use it) or you can use commercial products like Sports Wash, which you can get at the sports store.

Add the clothes in the washer and follow the manufacturers instructions for washing machine loads. Then run a cycle of cold water through them before drying in a machine or on the line. Be sure to remove the inners first before the wash so they don’t get all wet.

Always make certain to clean the laces on your running shoes (if washing your shoes) as taking the shoes into the washing machine will just ensure that they get broken in half.

Instead, you can use your tub and clean them by hand, using the same laundry detergent as above.

Dos and Don’ts

As runners, we know the importance of every practice, and this would not be possible if our gear would not be ready for every training session. I know you are leaving your shoes in the locker room after every run, but you forget about your running clothes that are so important for your training. We usually abuse our garments while running, which make us wear them out quicker.

There are some very simple things that you can do to make your running items last longer. Running clothes need some special care, which is why you need to check my tips and keep your garments well.

Before washing, you can try other options that do not require washing. For example, if you have a stain on your shirt, try to squeeze some cold water and white vinegar on the place and then leave to dry. This is a great solution for coffee or pasta stains.

After six runs, you should wash your clothes, but if you feel that they need it sooner, you can do it anytime.

Get your gear ready, and you will need only two things: running clothes and detergent.

To prevent the material around your chest from wearing out, you should wash only this part.

If you want to wash your running shoes, make sure you read the manual first. Most of the products recommend that you hand wash them.

Use warm water, and you should not use too much detergent.

Do Treat Your Running Clothing Kindly

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a runner. So, you’re the kind of person that puts every single piece of your clothing through the laundry.

The thing is that a lot of running apparel is made with special materials to be light, to wick away moisture, to keep you warm and cool, and to resist odor. It’s not like old school cotton or polyester. Your running clothes will still work very hard even after a washing or two.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re washing your running apparel:

Wash them on a delicate cycle. Don’t machine dry. Hang them to dry. Don’t iron them. Don’t use bleach. Don’t use fabric softener. And don’t use dryer sheets.

You can replace old t-shirts and socks anytime you want.

But you can’t just go to the store and buy a new pair of shorts or a top. And anything more expensive than shorts and a top is out of the question.

Here’s why:

Do Wash After Every Workout

Washing your running clothes after every workout helps keep the garment fresh and prevents stains from setting in. You can use a detergent in warm water and a brush to get rid of any dirt from the seams or any other areas. You can also use a stain remover to remove any old or stubborn stains. Hang to dry after washing.

Check for small holes and rips on the surface of the shirts and panties. Buy a few extra pairs if you don’t want to wear old clothes.

Finding the time to hand-wash your sports clothes may seem difficult since you are basically throwing your workout schedule out of whack. However, having freshly washed clothes can make a world of a difference.

If you love washing clothes on your own, grab a basket or a laundry bag and ensure that you take the time to wash your sports clothes. Even if you have to set aside a day a week to do the laundry, these are still better than having to wear dirty and smelly clothes.

Check for worksmanship wear and tear. If there are any parts that are coming out or loose, start looking for a replacement.

If the seams have popped out or a part of the strap has fallen, then you will have to replace the sports wear.

Do Consider a Sports Detergent

Athletes seem to accumulate more clothing than the average person that works a nine-to-five. Unfortunately, these items absorb smells and dirt much more easily than everyday clothing.

To wash them, you need special gear. Whether you’re looking to clean athletic gear or wash your running shoes, sports detergents are the best choice.

When choosing one, look for a few key features, including:

  • Moisture-resistant properties
  • Quality fragrance
  • Dye-free formula
  • Low-suds
  • Free from phosphates, chlorine, optical brighteners, and fabric statis

If you’re washing your running gear (shoes, socks, shorts, shirts, etc.) in a machine, be sure to add the detergent right before the rinse cycle.

To effectively clean expensive running shoes, put detergent inside each shoe and turn it upside down for about 30 minutes.

Alternatively, you can submerge your clean running shoes in a bucket filled with water mixed with a little bit of detergent. Let them sit for at least an hour. Just remember to check them from time to time and drain the water if it gets dirty.

Don’t Use Too High a Temperature

While washing clothing after a workout is generally encouraged, you need to be careful with the temperature of your water for washing sports gear. Gear that was subjected to stress while being used, such as gloves, shoes and sportswear, should be washed in a delicate cycle with cold water.

Hot water can cause shrinkage in synthetic fabrics and cause more stress on the gear. The stress causes the fibers to break down faster and leave your items looking worn out and frayed before their time. It is best to use no more than 100 degrees of water for washing your sports gear. Anything higher will just make it shrink.

Here’s one of the most important rules of washing items for sports or active use:

NEVER use the dryer. No matter how attractive the idea of having your stuff dry fast, don’t do it. Always allow your gear to air dry completely. Putting it in the dryer is asking for your items to stretch out and lose their shape.

Don’t Overload the Washer

Washing your running gear is easy, but taking care of a full load of sweaty clothes and running shoes can be an ordeal. Here are some tips to make that load easier to handle:

First, make sure you don’t overload the washing machine. According to the Consumer Reports Home Appliances & Electronics Lab, under-sized, full loads can damage your clothes and your washer. It can also dramatically increase your energy costs.

Adding few dabs of liquid detergent to a full wash load uses much more water than necessary. So split your load and add detergent to each load as needed along with your clothes. Add a cup of white vinegar to the final rinse cycle, as well as your running shoes for a high-performance wash.

A tip from Green Hill Runners: “Most of our members keep a large storage bin in their laundry room, and fill it with running and workout clothes that aren’t being used at the moment. As soon as a basket is empty, you just put it in the bin. Also, fill a mesh laundry bag with an arm load of clothes and throw it in if your load is very small.”

Toss your clothes and shoes in the dryer and press a medium-high dry setting. Or hang drying is always a better option. Dry shoes overnight.

Don’t Use Fabric Softener

Unless you want a whole lot of static cling, resist the temptation to add a fabric softener to your washing machine while washing any athletic clothing or shoes.

The no-softener rule applies to all fabric-lined fabrics, such as polyester, nylon and spandex, and is especially important for athletic socks and other items that go directly on the skin.

Your clothes will dry faster and be less prone to odor if you use powdered laundry detergent. However, if your laundry facilities are limited, the liquid laundry detergents are acceptable. Be sure to follow the instructions for use on the container label.