Friday, November 7, 2008

Stinky bike clothes

OK, I'm going out on a limb here to discuss something that I'm sure many of you have had to deal with as well, but it's not likely to be the subject of dinner conversation.

In my attempt to be more "green", I have been trying to make sure I only do loads of wash that are full and to use less hot water.

As a result, over the past year or two, I've noticed my bike clothes are more stinky than they used to be. Hmmmm, this is not a good trade-off for being a good steward to the environment!

I've picked up some new classes recently and teach 4 classes in a row, T, W, Th, F, and if for some reason this batch of clothes misses the rotation, say I did a big load on Monday, then they sit longer before making it into the wash. 

Peee-u! I sit on my Spin bike and notice a faint not-so-pleasant smell, even before I start to sweat. This is because that stinky smell that results from wet sweaty clothes being all balled-up doesn't easily get washed out (especially in cold water). I think the items that stink the most are my jog-bras (ladies, am I not alone on this??).

Also, since I am personal training much less than I used to, I have less of that lycra to add to the mix. 

Those of you with larger households, you probably do more wash than we do. Here, it's just me and my husband, and this summer, he hasn't been Spinning or riding as much due to his schedule. This is changing as we move into winter (he's a general contractor), so I'll have his bike clothes to add to the pile, allowing me to wash these loads more often. But here are some of the things I'm doing differently:

I used to always wash bike clothes and other lycra or polypropelene products together, so that pile had to wait until it got big enough to warrant its own load (increasing its stinkiness). If I rode or spun (spinned?) or skied a lot that week, it didn't take much time to grow the pile, but if I didn't, it could be a week or more. Nowadays, what the heck, unless the lycra pile is large due to an active family weekend, those bike shorts get thrown in with the jeans. It hasn't hurt them since I've been doing this! Right? 

I used to only wash lycra in cold water. There are three reasons for this: because the label says so, because it supposedly extends the wear, and because it's more "green". But now, not being smelly trumps a few extra months or years of wear or a lower electric bill. Now they probably get washed in cold water only 50% of the time (except the jog bras, which are more like 0% now).

I used to only hang dry my lycra/polypro (for the same 3 reasons above). Now, I probably hang them 50-75% of the time. The dryer doesn't seem to hurt them (yet), and it kills some of the bacteria, so an occasional hot spin seems to partially amend the smelliness. Right? Or am I wrong and that makes them smell more?

One thing I'm trying to get better at is when I get home from Spin class, lay the sweaty wet clothes on the top of the hamper so they dry out. If I'm in a hurry, sometimes they'll sit in my gym bag all balled-up for a day or two or over the weekend (Jennifer, that's pretty gross)!  One club I work at has plastic bags for wet clothes, and there are times I'll forget to take them out of the bag and they'll sit in there for 3-4 days until the next load of wash. Yuck. These items needs to go through two hot loads in a row, and that's certainly not very green,  and my conscience suffers as a result.

I'd love to get some comments from all you guys as to how you combat this olfactory problem, especially with ways to balance being more green and protecting our resources with not being smelly. Smelly is not good. Are there products you have found that help? Have you found the life of your bike clothes is reduced from using warm water or putting them in the dryer, or is that not an issue to you? Do you only wash in cold water and live with a musty smell? Or do you not sweat and wonder what I'm talking about?? 


In freshness,



Anita said...

Hi Jennifer,

it's only human ;-)!! I usually wash my bike clothes and the bras at 30°C and after a while, they've got the same smell you described - and then I wash them at 60°C together with the bed linen and the towels and the smell is gone! It takes about 4-5 washings until the smell is unbearable for my sensitive nose, but I try not to forget the clothes when they are wet and hang them up to dry when the washing machine is not full yet. I think this is a good compromise to stay "green" most of the time without a bad smell!

lamspin said...

Hi Jennifer,
You surely cover all the topics for us! You are truly an awesome human being!
Here is how I do mine:
-Hang them dry to wait for the weekly load.
-I use Tide (w/stain remover type which has the best fragance or Downy type will do) to soak the clothes first in the bucket then dump them in the washer with other clothing.
-I use warm water.
-I definitely don't put lycra clothing in the dryer.
And of course, when these clothes are getting old, nothing we can do to prevent the smell. It's shopping time again!

Jennifer Sage said...

Thanks for your suggestions ladies!
I like the idea of pre-soaking - maybe that's my answer. I've got to get over my laziness first (it's extra work)! Our new home (moving in a few months) will have a sink in the laundry room so that will help. Too lazy to use a bucket (and what I have would be too small)!

I need to get better at hanging the clothes before they sit in the wash for a long time. Problem is my washer is in my basement and sometimes I get lazy. :0

And, there's a few things I should probably toss - those pesky smelly jogbras! Time for some new ones. hey, Santa, you listening??

Kloba said...

I feel you, Jenn. I lug my spin clothes to the Laundry Mat once a week and they stink.
I wash them cold and hang them up in my house to extend their life.
I use "Ecover" laundry soap and on top of that I add a dash of Peppermint Dr. Bronner's soap (which I think can kill any funky odor).
It is a bitch, sweating so much....especially on clothes (and hair)

Robert said...

I know the problem well, as I teach 9 regular classes a week and usually cover at least another couple. I tend not to use much else in the way of clothing, other than t-shirts, underwear and the odd tracksuit and sweatshirt.

Like you, I've maxed out my green credentials but found ways around that musty odour.

1 - I dry out my sweaty lycra before it goes into the laundry bag, stops the sweat bugs multiplying

2 - when the time comes, EVERYTHING goes in together. Lycra, white, colours, delicates. Here's why:

3 - I wash on 30c with Ecover biological powder (which still does the trick at low temps). No need to separate for most things at those low temps.

4 - Not a day goes by when I don't sweat, so it's now become pretty close to water, i.e., athletic sweat. This only smells if using it again (eugh!)

5 - given that I'm always active, I rarely need to use deodorant and never use anti-perspirant. Both of these cover the sweat and/or smell initially but it can stick to the jerseys for longer

6 - never wear anything twice, whether underwear, socks, t-shirt, etc. If worn the whole day, time to wash it, especially if it's been warm!

Only one problem - my KoM jersey's started lacking in splendour, due to washing at low temps. But it IS 20 years old!!

wlb said...

A veteran instructor once told me "sometimes you just have to throw stuff away."

It might be gross but some tops I can't give up-so I only use them to ride OUTDOORS.

I'm gonna try the pre-soak and the warmer water things.

Anonymous said...

My sister in stink! Vinegar is one answer as well. It works great as a presoak.

I've also been known to use a product called Odo-ban on the really smell sports bras (or as we say in New England - Brars).

Anonymous said...

I've seen some outside advice suggesting adding a cup of white vinegar into the prewash/soak cycle. But you have to wait until the water level is near the top. I've tried it a couple of times and haven't seen any problems with the clothes. It's a little premature to say if it's successful or not.

Shari said...

Jennifer, I am so glad you brought this up--it's the topic I think many of us wonder about, but no one talks about!

I feel like I've tried everything: spraying clothes with vinegar after the workout, sprinkling them with baking soda, presoaking, and lately I've been using Win detergent for my exercise clothes (I use BioKleen for the rest of our laundry). I used to think Win was the answer (though, it's probably not a very enviro detergent...which is a concern of mine as well) but now I think maybe it's just covering up the odors. Just like you describe, no matter what I do, nothing seems to eliminate the aroma completely.

I hope someone can provide the miracle, environmentally sound answer!

Jennifer Sage said...

OK, tomorrow looks like it will be laundry day at the Sage household, so I'll try some of these suggestions.

Question about the vinegar - doesn't it just smell like vinegar afterwards, or does that wash out completely? I am reminded of our dog growing up in southern California, who had more than a few encounters with skunks. We'd wash him in tomato sauce and/or vinegar, then afterwards he just smelled like vinegar and/or tomato sauce AND skunk! LOL!

Where can you by Odo-Ban, anyone know?

I am tossing out the worst offender today - an old faded jog bra with a Spinning logo on it, that no amount of washing seems to work (rather, it seems to work after it's washed, but then within 5 minutes of starting to sweat, it's back to where it was). I think it was from my very early years of presenting, so 10-11 years old. Not bad for a piece of athletic clothing! Can't complain.

SaraSpin said...

I've been using a cup of vinegar in every load since I read about it. Only my one Spinning jersey still stinks like ammonia when I start to sweat in it. My husband has a habit of leaving just washed clothes in the washing machine overnight and the vinegar has worked every time. I put it in with the detergent BEFORE I put any clothes in the washer. I've also soaked the jersey in water and vinegar and it did take the stink out for a while. I wash everything in cold with CHEER detergent. I've tried the WIN stuff but wasn't impressed. Smelly detergent only barely covers the stink in my husband's gym clothes!!!

Jennifer Sage said...

Is white vinegar "distilled vinegar"?

If it doesn't work well in a vinaigrette, it's probably not in my cupboard! Maybe Costco has big jugs of them for next to nuthin'!

Isn't it funny that this subject of smelly clothes has the most comments so far on this blog.... :-p

Anonymous said...

Yes, white vinegar is distilled and is also sold in huge bottles at a pretty cheap price. There has been absolutely no trace of it in the wash afterward. But again, I don't add it until the water is in so it gets instantly diluted.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you brought this up. I have two back to back spin classes and after the first one my old shorts and old shirts get that stinky smell. I wash all old and new together so it was easy for me to tell that only the old ones stink after my first class. I started to take extra clothes to change into after my first spin class. That was a hassle.

I've been in denial. I guess I'm going to have to toss the old shorts and shirts. No getting around that.

Glad to have read this posts and comments. Now I have no excuse. (maybe I'll keep the old stuff for when I ride outside. hmmm?)


Shari said...

I have a front-loading washing machine. Anyone have a method for adding vinegar to this type of washer? Maybe I would just pour it into the liquid detergent slot? Help appreciated! :)

Anonymous said...

Dude I currently teach three
classes during the week; two
on Tuesdays (9am and 12noon).
Since I live close enough to go home after the 9am class, I
drop the wet clothes in the washer,
take a shower (YES; otherwise I
would not be able to stand myself)
change to another set of clothes
and later, come home and wash both
sets of sweaty clothes in warm water with detergent, sans fabric
softner, in the "SMALL LOAD" setting. I used to wait for a larger load but I don't do that anymore...I absolutely cannot stand
the stink and will toss out whatever still stinks...yuck...
favorite or not. I have three other people in my family and I kid
you not, the washer and dryer works
VERY VERY hard in our household.
Jennifer, you rock...does this impatient version of stink help? LOL

- darlene

Anonymous said...

Wow, I can relate to every comment made. What's frustrating to me is when the clothes come out of the dryer they smell clean and fresh it's not until they get moist that they get the "sour" smell. I have resorted to adding a small amount of bleach to the load to kill the bacteria. I believe the smell is the bacteria being released from the fabric. I also wear my spin clothes into the shower and do a quick lather and rinse to get the heavy sweat out. I throw them in the bathing suit drying machine and that get the heavy wet out. I wash everyday b/c I can't afford to replace tops that can be $25 and up! I can't believe this is the topic I chose to comment on!