How to Get the Sweat Smell Out of Clothes
Does your supposed anti-odor workout gear smell plain toxic after an intense workout? And no matter what you do, the smell just won't come out.
As a regular gym-goer and avid sweater, I’ve spent years testing how to get the sweat smell out of clothes. I exercise before work or during lunch, and my sweat-soaked clothes bask in the sun all day, leaving them especially pungent.
Through trial and error, I discovered some effective methods for removing odor from both business and workout attire.
Materials That Hide Sweat & Odor Best
To remove that undeniable sweat smell from clothes, you should know how the stench originates. The material you wear will change how odor gets absorbed — and how you treat the smell. For instance:
- Workout clothes: Like most sweat-blocking materials, your moisture-wicking workout shirt is made from synthetic materials like spandex, lycra or rayon. These materials push sweat and odor outward, so the smell is more likely to go airborne.
- Dress shirts: Your dress shirt might be 100% cotton or a blend of natural and synthetic fibers. Natural fibers like cotton or wool don’t retain odor as well as synthetic materials, so choose these materials when possible.
How to Get the Sweat Smell Out of Clothes
How you treat, wash and dry your sweaty clothes matters. And one wrong move could leave your clothes with a permanent stench of sweat.
Combine these steps to remove the sweat smell from clothes and extend their lifespan.
Air out sweaty clothes
Moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria. Instead of throwing your sweaty clothes in the hamper right after a workout, let them hang dry.
Turn your clothes inside out before washing
Your sweat and odor contacts the inside of your shirt first. Turn your dress shirt or workout top inside out before washing to target the buildup of oils and bacteria.
Pretreat your sweaty shirts
Some areas of your shirts get sweatier than others, like the armpits and lower back. Apply a pretreatment directly to these heavily soiled areas to break up sweat and bacteria before washing the shirt.
Here are some options for pretreating your sweaty button-down or workout shirt:
- Vinegar and water
- Water, powder laundry detergent and squeezed lemon
- Dishwasher detergent and water
Reduce load size
Your sweaty shirts and socks need plenty of water to penetrate the fibers, especially when wearing synthetic workout shirts. Reduce your load size to about half to ensure they get properly cleaned.
Change your laundry detergent
Liquid laundry detergents are less porous than powders. Avoid using liquids (or keep use to a minimum) and fabric softeners that clog up moisture-wicking materials.
Instead, choose powder laundry detergent like Nikwax BaseWash for synthetic moisture-wicking clothing. NixWax deodorizes synthetic fabric, maintains the moisture wicking quality that tends to wash off and speeds up dry time.
This powder detergent from Arm & Hammer contains baking soda that can help break up odor buildup on all materials.
Smell clothes before drying them
Drying your clothes locks in the smell. If your clothes still smell like sweat after a wash cycle, try another pretreatment and wash the clothes again. Always make sure the sweat smell is completely gone before placing items in the dryer.
Swap moisture-wicking materials for natural fibers
Moisture-wicking fabrics keep you cool during a workout. But if you’re concerned about odor, they aren’t your best option.
- For workout gear: Smartwool combines the natural wool with polyester to create a quick-drying workout shirt for men and women. Thompson Tees are also made of 100% natural premium combed cotton and rayon from bamboo to prevent odor during workouts.
- For dress shirts: Avoid dress shirts made from synthetic materials. For instance, polyester traps heat, making you feel even hotter. For the best shot at eliminating obvious odor, check the tag, and stick with 100% cotton, wool or silk (like these Nordstrom’s Smartcare Dress Shirts). Already have a favorite dress shirt? You can also wear a Thompson Tee sweat proof undershirt beneath any dress shirt to completely block sweat and odor from passing through. Try a Thompson Tee today for 20% off with code TEES20.
If you don't tend to sweat a lot during workouts, try a Thompson Tee Premium Undershirt. The Supima cotton and MicroModal blend is a versatile piece that you can wear as an undershirt or T-shirt and will leaving you smelling fresh no matter what you're doing.
These are just a few tips for fighting odor and preserving your expensive shirts.
What tactics have you tried for removing the sweat smell from clothes? Let us know in the comments!