OMG: We’re All Washing Athleisure Wrong!

Experts suggest washing our gym clothes and athleisure after every wear to curb bacterial growth, but the laundry process isn't what you might expect.

exerciseg stockstudio/ShutterstockIf you were wondering, yes, you’re supposed to wash gym clothes after every wear, and generally speaking the same goes for all that ultra-comfy athleisure you’re practically living in, too. If you’re wondering why, it’s because the synthetic materials that lend the stretchy, body-conforming qualities we love are basically petri dishes after they’re exposed to sweat and naturally occurring bacteria found on our bodies and in the air. Gym clothes aren’t inexpensive, though, and the way we wash our leggings, tanks, and other fitness gear can make or break the longevity of our athleisure pieces. (By the way, here’s how to find fitness gear that flatters.)

“Many of these fabrics offer wicking, antimicrobial, four-way stretch, breathability, and compression,” explains Victoria Vandagriff, president of the new women’s active collection from Splendid called Studio. “The biggest issue is that many people don’t know that you shouldn’t wash active apparel and athleisure with fabric softener because it removes the moisture-wicking properties.”

If you’re investing big bucks in premium gym clothes and athleisure, it makes sense to preserve the features you’re paying for. While fabric softener is one of the big laundry demons to steer clear of (you can try these other fabulous uses for fabric softener if you’ve got extra hanging around), athleisure clothes also require a very specific laundry cycle.

“Many people swear by the use of steam cycles or high temperature wash cycles to combat the odor build-up on athleisure wear, but this can decrease the life of your clothes,” says Shannon Lenox, in-house scientist at Seventh Generation. “We encourage washing all of your clothing in cold water.”

Cold water preserves elastic and stretch-type synthetic fabrics, but Shannon also says it’s great for conserving energy, a side benefit you might not have expected.

“By combining loads and washing all of your athleisure wear together you can minimize your use of hot water cycles.What happens over time is the elastic qualities of athleisure fabrics decrease, which may be caused by over-washing or drying in conditions that are too aggressive high temperatures.”

As for the dryer? You should skip that too. The experts agree that cool or moderate washing cycles followed by air drying are ideal for keeping your athleisure in great shape for many, many workouts (or non-workouts, we’re not judging). Find out even more laundry mistakes you need to avoid making.

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Bryce Gruber
Bryce Gruber covers gift ideas, shopping, and e-commerce at, although you've likely seen her work across a variety of women's lifestyle and parenting topics at, Bravo,, Martha Stewart, and on your TV screen through national talk shows including The Tamron Hall Show. She lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley with her five small children. Find her on social media at @brycegruber.