The Expert’s Guide To Caring For Your Sportswear
If cashmere knits and silk shirts are the delicate, sensitive souls of our wardrobes, in need of the utmost love and attention, then sporty technical garments are the tough guys, right? Lycra, nylon, elastane: it’s these smart, everything-proof fabrics that sportswear designers typically turn to precisely for their stretchiness, support and strength. However, despite being made to withstand a weathering in spin class or the swimming pool, that level of muscle doesn’t automatically extend to our wash cycles. In fact, it seems that – in both life and matters sartorial – the toughest guys could do with a little extra TLC.
With that in mind, and at a time when many of us will be aspiring to amp up our exercise routines, we thought it wise to share a few tips on how to keep your workout gear in pristine condition. To do so, we solicited the advice of Mr Ludovic Blanc, the founder of Blanc, London’s most aesthetically pleasing eco dry-cleaners, and a keen runner himself. Blanc can be considered an oracle on everything sportswear-care – and accordingly the man to answer our burning questions. For example, should we be washing our workout gear by hand? And why on earth does our tank top still harbour a stench after several washes? Read on to discover his expert guide to keeping gym jerseys, cycling shorts and even sports shoes in tip-top shape.
Wash it on the same day
So you’ve stumbled home from a gruelling training session, whipped up a post-workout protein shake, tossed your kit in the laundry basket and indulged in a much-needed muscle soak. But before you settle onto the sofa and leave your sweat-drenched tee to marinate overnight, heed the advice of the experts. “Warm, moist fabrics are a breeding ground for bacteria,” warns Blanc. “It’s best to wash your sportswear as quickly as possible after exercising before all the bacteria has an opportunity to get embedded in your clothes.” Sure, tending to an extra load of laundry isn’t anyone’s choice way to unwind – much less so after you’ve expended any remaining dregs of energy on the rowing machine. Our advice: think of it as that final, painful rep in your workout routine – and duly reward yourself later.
Turn down the heat
Cheery news for busy types: there’s no need to spend your off-duty hours hunched over the sink, scrubbing each piece of lycra by hand. “Most sportswear garments are OK to go in the washing machine,” says Blanc, although he recommends always referring to the care label as the last word. As far as the setting is concerned, a piping-hot wash may appeal for its supposed abilitiles to nix any germs and odours, but in truth high heats are the number-one enemy of exercise gear. Instead, “cold, short and gentle” is Blanc’s mantra – in his own warehouse, he favours a non-toxic wet-cleaning technique (the “dry clean” label is universally something of a misnomer) that functions at much lower temperatures – and is thus gentler on fibres. At home, sceptical germophobes can ease any apprehensions by tossing in an anti-bacterial additive. Although, says Blanc, be sure to reach for one made from all-natural ingredients that’s kind to both skin and planet.
Skip the softener
You may deem it a vital component of your weekly washes, but it’s best to do without fabric softener altogether for sportswear, says Blanc. “Fabric softener can be really detrimental to activewear and damage the moisture-absorbing qualities.” For his own running gear, Blanc prefers an eco-friendly detergent that’s specifically formulated for workout garments, complete with odour-control properties, and makes sure to pre-treat any scuffs and marks using his own stain-remover bar. And while conditioner may ultimately be amiss here, what you most certainly shouldn’t overlook is a guppy bag. “When you wash your sportswear – especially synthetic sportswear – microplastics come away from your clothes and are released into the waterways, which harms marine life and isn’t great for our health, either. Using a guppy bag is a simple and effective way to prevent that.”
Hang it up to dry
Friction, chlorine, rain, sweat – the best workout clothes are designed to go through it and then some. Still, not even the most expertly engineered, Olympic-athlete-endorsed exercise gear is a match for the tumble dryer. “Sportswear tends to be made from synthetic fibres, which heat can degrade and damage or even melt,” explains Blanc. (A note from us here: a tumble dryer might have once been regarded as the ultimate godsend for the time-strapped, but for the sake of your garments, electricity bill and a rapidly deteriorating planet, it’s best to reserve it for your linens.) Instead, to keep your workout clothes at their high-performing best, Blanc advocates allowing them hang dry on a good old-fashioned clothes horse. Fortunately, thanks to those innate moisture-sapping capabilities, workout clothes should dry much quicker than usual. Still, to be on the safe side, stocking up on extra sportswear at MR PORTER will deny you any early-morning excuses.
Don’t neglect your sneakers
If you can muster up the courage, why not go ahead and give your gym trainers a good sniff? It’s somehow even more frightening than you could’ve fathomed, right? Alas, the truth is, while most frequent gymgoers and avid runners wouldn’t contemplate facing their workout in anything but a freshly laundered kit, oftentimes our sports shoes are simply left to ripen. Of course, any MR PORTER regular will be well aware that sneaker care isn’t a subject we take lightly – and for those limited-edition Air Maxes and crisp white leather tennis shoes, only the utmost care (and a dedicated first-aid kit) will do. However, in the case of workout and running shoes that already take a battering, consider Blanc’s advice your free pass to be a tad less precious. “I’d suggest removing the laces, brushing off any surface dirt, then placing your shoes in a mesh bag and into the washing machine on a cold cycle. Once that’s done, stuff some newspaper inside and leave them to air dry naturally.” In between washes, a deodorising spray should aid in keeping any simmering odours at bay for a little while longer. Likewise, swapping in brand-new insoles every so often is as much a salve for soreness as it is stink.
Illustration by Mr Pete Gamlen