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How to Get Odor Out of Activewear

November 19, 2020

How to Get Odor Out of Activewear

How to Get Odor Out of Activewear

Here’s the scenario: you’ve just climbed into your car after a particularly strenuous workout. The odor hits your nose, and you absentmindedly wonder, “Is that me?” No, it can’t be; it’s just too bad. But by the time you hit the interstate, the smell has percolated and intensified until it fills your entire car. When you get home, you wash your activewear, but even after the wash, the smells persist.

For many of us, hitting the gym a few times per week is a regular component of our routine. Maybe your “gym” is just your home. Regardless, even though athletic activity works wonders to improve our physical and mental health, there’s one universal, annoying downside: your clothes can get a little stinky.

But never fear! As usual, Unique has you covered. In today’s post, we’ll discover what causes odors in activewear + how to easily remove them!

Understanding Activewear Odors

There’s a very good reason athletic clothing can get stinkier than regular garb—and believe it or not, the biggest issue isn’t because of your profuse sweating. Yes, that plays into the issue, but the real problem is the fabric itself. 

You see, traditional clothing is highly water-permeable when compared to activewear, which is typically synthetic and moisture-wicking. What that means is that synthetic wicking fabrics repel water by design. They also have deep creases and ridges built into the fabric designed to draw sweat away from your body. Unfortunately, those deep creases are also great places for grime to build up!

Synthetic wicking fabrics like spandex, polyester, etc. are high-tech materials designed to wick moisture away from your body and keep you cool. But here’s the downside: they’re so good at their job that they actually repel water when you try to wash them. That means that odors will stay in these clothes as well! Even after several washes, athletic clothing can still hold odors. Because of this, body oils, sweat, salt, sebum (a fatty substance secreted by the skin to moisturize), skin cells, dirt, and other crud can be extremely difficult to remove using normal means.

What you need is some additional power to drive those odors and debris out of the synthetic fabric. Water and most detergents don’t cut it, but effective, and odorless bacteria will!

Complete Stain + Odor Remover

We don’t typically toot our own horn at Unique, but we’ve found that Complete Stain + Odor Remover is one of the best products to remove persistent, lingering odors from activewear. And we’re not just saying that because it’s our own product! Several of us are athletic, and we have used the process outlined below to effectively eliminate even the most stubborn odors from our activewear. 

Step 1: The Pre-Soak

One of the toughest substances to remove from activewear is sebum, that nasty, yellowish bodily fluid we mentioned earlier that resembles the grossest pus imaginable. (All jokes aside, it’s actually very important for keeping our skin healthy!) Because of its sticky texture, sebum can coagulate in your athletic clothing and attract other grime to it, causing even more odors. 

The easiest way to remove sebum (+ other grime) is the pre-soak:

  1. If you have a front loading washing machine, fill a large basin or bucket with warm water (be careful not to go too hot). Or, if you have a top-loading washing machine, you can choose to fill it partially with warm water. 
  2. Add 1 cup of Complete Stain + Odor Remover concentrate.
  3. Turn your activewear inside out (so that the bacteria can easily access the most soiled places) and add the clothes to the basin or bucket.
  4. Allow the activewear to soak for several hours—overnight if possible. 

From the very beginning of the pre-soak, the stain-and-odor eating bacteria in Complete Stain + Odor Remover will set to work digesting all the sebum and other crud embedded in your athletic clothes. Because the bacteria will be able to penetrate and move freely between the fibers of your activewear, they will eat up that odor-producing grime, leaving behind nothing but carbon dioxide and water. 

Step 2: The Wash

After you’ve pre-soaked your activewear, you’re ready to wash it. Remember: the pre-soak step broke up and digested most if not all that grime embedded in your clothes, but you’ll still need a regular washing-machine cycle to wash away any residual dirt.

  1. Dump the entire contents of the basin or bucket into your washing machine (if you have a front-loading washing machine). The bacteria will keep working during the wash, so it’s helpful to pour all of the contents into your washing machine if you can. If you have a top-loading washing machine, simply move on to the next step.
  2. Wash your activewear in cold water on a regular cycle, following all washing instructions on your activewear. 
  3. Follow instructions on your activewear for the proper drying process. Activewear can react negatively to high heat, so tumble drying can often shorten the effective life of your clothes. Air drying is a better option.


The gym is (sometimes begrudgingly) a second home for many of us (or maybe it’s a part of our actual home!). Lots of us like it that way, but what we don’t like are the odors that can come along with a great workout and become ingrained in our activewear. Luckily, it’s easy to know why this happens, and it’s even easier to fix it!

We hope this article has helped you solve the mystery of activewear odors. If you have any further questions or comments about this article or any of the other articles on our blog, please reach out to us at We’d be happy to help you out!

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