14 Ways To Remove That Stubborn Sweat Smell From Your Clothes

Photo: Yaroslav Astakhov / Shutterstock
woman sweating

I love working out! Even when I hate it, I love it. I might grumble all the way to the gym, but once my heart rate gets going and that sweat starts beading up and trickling down, I'm in my happy place.

Usually, when I leave with my gym bag, I'm riding such a high that I don't even notice if I stink to high heaven. But usually the next day or so, when I am reminded to tend to those stinky gym clothes, I'm presented with a cruel reminder of just how badly sweat can stink up your clothes.

It often makes me wonder how to get sweat smell out of clothes, especially when detergent doesn't always do the trick.

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There is absolutely nothing wrong with sweating up a storm. Sweat is your body's way of naturally cooling you off; in fact, sweat itself is actually quite clean and has almost no aroma to speak of.

It's when it passes through our pores that it collects the debris and bacteria that create the pungent tang we're all in such a hurry to make sure we get rid of as soon as possible.

But getting rid of the smell of stinky sweat is no small feat. Luckily, I'm here to help!

Here's how to get sweat smell out of clothes with 14 helpful tips.

1. Don't use as much detergent.

It might sound bananas, but using too much laundry detergent in your workout clothes load is only going to create soap build-up on your clothes, which can actually make you already rank clothes smell even worse.

If you want to get rid of sweat smells, try cutting back to half the amount of detergent you usually use.

2. Wash your clothes right away.

It's not always convenient to get your sweaty workout gear and clothing into a washing machine but, at the very least, hang them up to dry before they go in your hamper.

Best case scenario, you're washing them right away. That's because the stink we associate with sweat is actually caused by bacteria, and what do bacteria love to feast upon? Moisture. So pick up that pile, stat!

3. Don't use fabric softener.

Sure, the stuff itself smells good, but it will do nothing to workout clothes besides actually lock in the smell of your stinky sweat. You don't need that in your life!

Also, as nice as it might smell, it's rough on stretchy materials like the ones workout clothes are made of. So not only are you not removing sweat smells by using it, you're also shortening the lifespan of your favorite Lycra ensemble.

4. Freeze your clothes.

This is a trick I have been using for way too long. If you need to quickly get rid of the stink in a shirt before you hit the town and you don't have time to do laundry, try putting them in the freezer.

You heard me right. The freezing cold will temporarily knock out the bacteria causing the wretched stank. But be warned: this is a quick fix and will not give you the lasting results that you crave.

5. Hang your clothes to dry them.

Sometimes sunlight really is the only cure — ask a depressed person, why don't you?

Letting your clothing air dry on the line in the sun instead of in the dryer can "sun bleach" the bad smells right out of your clothes.

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6. Add a lemon to your wash.

Lemons aren't just for lemonade anymore!

If you are having trouble getting rid of really bad sweat smells, add the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon into your washing before you hit start. The citric acid inside of the juice will help kill the odor-causing bacteria.

7. Use vinegar.

Vinegar is great at getting rid of bad smells. Just pre-soak your laundry for no more than 30 minutes in equal parts white vinegar and cold water, then wash as usual.

8. Try baking soda.

Baking soda is almost as good as vinegar when it comes to banishing bad smells. Measure about one cup of baking soda into your laundry and marvel as the fresh-i-ocity overtakes you.

9. Wash your clothes inside out.

Because the inside of your shirt or pants is directly touching your skin when you wear it, the oils from your skin as well as the sweat will linger here. Turn your garments inside out so the detergent or cleaner you use directly attacks the smells.

10. Add a booster.

Adding a laundry booster or using a sports detergent means you're using products that are designed to clean the dirtiest of clothes! That's because these boosters contain polymers that attach to dirt and grime, and prevent them from remaining stuck on clothes, even when they are being washed.

11. Wash your clothes in cold water.

Studies have found that washing your clothing in hot water doesn't necessarily kill bacteria, it just mixes it into the fabric of your clothing. So, be sure to put your sweaty clothes on a wash cycle using cold water, and dry them on low heat.

12. Use a steamer.

If you're feeling a little lazy and don't really have time to run a wash cycle, consider investing in a garment steamer. In fact, one recent study found that using a high-heat steamer effectively kills germs and viruses, as well as bacteria that causes that awful smell.

13. Clean your washing machine regularly.

If your washing machine itself stinks, don't be afraid to toss some vinegar into it and run it on a delicate cycle to clean out the whole machine. This should be done at least once per month.

14. Trim your armpit hair.

If you don't shave your armpits, try keeping the hair relatively short. Bacteria adhere to your pit hair the same way it adheres to your clothing. Having shorter hair and paying attention to your personal hygiene can make a big difference.

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a freelance writer and the former Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, and true crime.