How to care for your running kit
Both accessible and affordable, whether outdoors or indoors, with a host of events like 5ks and marathons to train for, there’s much to love about running. But if you’re running longer and more often, it’s even more important to give your gear the post-workout R&R it needs, so you can feel good and achieve more. From removing that post-run odour from your activewear, to caring for your sports bra, here’s how to properly look after your running kit. Be sure to also view our post on mistakes to avoid when washing activewear in general.
1) Air your running kit
Though it’s tempting to throw all your sweaty, smelly activewear into the washing basket right after your run, it’s important to give it room to breathe for a few hours so that the sweat can evaporate. Sweat-induced odours and bacteria thrive in the damp, dark environment of your washing basket, so the less time it’s in there the better. For the same reason, avoid leaving your gear in a damp pile: moisture promotes bacterial growth. So, post-run, dry your soggy stuff straight away on a drying rack before throwing it in the wash.
2) Do a cool wash
As a general rule, err on the cold side when washing your running gear. High performance fabrics are designed to wick away sweat and keep you dry, not handle extended periods in hot water. High elastane content fabrics in particular, like nylon and latex, are vulnerable to heat damage: their fibres can shrink and lose elasticity when washed in high heat. So, always stick to cool temperatures (40°C and below) to keep your running gear in great shape. If your kit has zips, use a mesh laundry bag to help prevent the fabric snagging, stretching or tearing in the drum. You should also turn your running gear inside out before washing, to both maintain its vibrancy and protect the outer coating.
3) Use a specialist detergent
Your running gear’s sweat-wicking properties mean odour-releasing bacteria can get trapped, so it’s important to choose a specialist detergent, like Kair’s powerful, plant-based Activewear Wash, which will deep-clean the fibres by removing perspiration and odours lurking within. To avoid limiting fabric life or affecting colour retention, avoid fabric or colour degrading nasties (look out for enzymes, optical brighteners, bleaching agents, and SLS). If the post-run smell lingers after washing, resist the urge to add extra detergent. This will only leave a residue for more bacteria and mildew to feed on, making the odour stronger.
4) Skip the fabric conditioner
While it’s dreamy for bedding and natural fibres, fabric softener can clog sportswear fibres, impeding their moisture-wicking abilities, and making them more likely to hold onto that post-run smell. So, skip the fabric conditioner, and try adding a cup of distilled white vinegar to your wash instead: it acts as a natural softener, without ruining your clothing.
5) Dry in fresh air
Never, ever tumble dry: tumble dryers break down synthetic fibres, leading to shrinkage and reducing elasticity. At the same time, the heat from tumble dryers can warm up whatever bacteria might remain in your running kit, making it smell like it hasn’t been washed at all. Instead air dry items using a clothing rack, or better, outside in the fresh air for that hard-to-beat natural freshness. Hung outside, the sun’s UV light will kill lingering bacteria, whilst also producing a range of aldehydes and ketones which our noses associate with the scent of plants or perfumes (according to Environmental Chemistry).
6) Refresh with finishing spray
If your gym bag’s starting to smell of your post-run workout kit, or your running clothes or trainers need a quick refresh between runs, consider using a finishing spray to instantly revitalise your fabrics and lift, neutralise, and remove the source of odours. They are handy for when you’re in a hurry on the go, and lead a busy, active lifestyle.
How to wash your sports bra
Sports bras need a little extra TLC when it comes to washing. The technical fabric can wear in the machine, which can slightly diminish the bra’s elasticity when it’s washed over time. So be sure to pop it in a mesh laundry bag before loading up the machine, and choose a gentle delicates or hand wash cycle, with a low spin and a low temperature. If you’re only doing a small load, you can also hand wash your sports bra to save water.
How to wash your running trainers
Keep your running trainers race-day fresh by always brushing off excess mud when returning from outdoor runs, and sprinkling smelly insoles with baking soda post-run. For a thorough machine-wash, pop them in a mesh laundry bag, with their laces detached. Don’t simply chuck them in the machine without extra protection: doing so can discolour and damage the technical fabric. Once clean, avoid drying running shoes on or near a radiator, as this can heat up the shoe and cause it to lose its shape. Let them dry at room temperature, adding paper towels or newspaper to soak up excess liquid (it can take up to 12 hours for them to dry out completely). To keep your shoes looking new for longer, don’t leave them outside or in direct sunlight, as the sun can make white soles go yellow.
Now you know how to make your running kit go the distance by caring for it with confidence, so it can see you through marathon after marathon.