28th August 2017. What's in your gym bag? The kit you bring to the gym or that you use for working out at home is essential: it provides you with some of the most basic tools necessary to exercise effectively and in comfort. From the shoes you wear to the fitness tops you pull over your head, your clothing and accessories all play their part. If you've ever opened an old bag after forgetting about it for a while, though, the funky odour alone can be enough to make you want to ditch your kit and replace it with new items. Exercise clothing can carry a big price tag ? so why deal with the problems that come from neglecting your gear? Knowing the proper way to care for your kit will save money over time and keep you comfortable at the gym to boot. It doesn't add too much extra time to your routine to start caring for your clothes the right way, either. Let's break down the various ways you should clean and look after your fitness gear. We can also look at some of the signs that say it's time to replace your old gear and make the move to a newer kit. One thing to keep in mind: we'll only be touching on how to care for clothing used for dry land exercise today, not swimsuits. Those require a very different set of care instructions that you'll need to consider separately.

First steps: what to do right after your workout

Proper care starts from the moment you stop working out for the day. When you climb off the exercise how-to-care-for-your-exercise-kit-gym-bagbike or come in from a long run, changing out of your sweaty clothes is the first thing everyone wants. So, what do you do with them once you're back in your "civilian" clothes? It's okay to toss them straight into your gym bag, but don't leave them there once you get home. The longer you leave them to sit in the damp and dark of the bag, the more likely it is they will start to grow mildew. Don't leave your bag in a hot car, either ? that will create the perfect growing conditions for bacteria, too. If you cannot attend to washing your workout digs right away, hang them up and allow them to dry. While this will require some extra steps later to help unlock and release the odours in the fabric, it will prevent the mildew problem. Use a deodoriser on your gym bag or place an odour eliminating product inside. Keeping your bag clean will also help to avoid your clothes from picking up the smells you want to avoid during transport. If you have the time to spare, though, instead of hanging them up you can move directly to laundering your clothes back to freshness.

How to wash most common workout fabrics

The good news is that you don't need to hand-wash your workout clothes unless you're using an exotic fabric. Check the tag on your clothes; most will instruct you to machine wash them. First, though, turn [caption id="attachment_1140" align="alignleft" width="300"]How to Care for your Exercise Kit Washing Machine How to Care for your Exercise Kit Washing Machine[/caption] your clothes inside out and lay them to soak in a mixture of water and white vinegar. The vinegar will attack odour-causing molecules and break them down and come out in the wash. Don't worry: a spin through the washing machine will ensure there is no vinegar smell left behind afterwards. After the soak, toss them into your machine. Do not use fabric softeners! Softening agents can have deleterious effects on your workout clothes, reducing elasticity and even breaking down some fabrics like spandex or lycra. Instead, use just a small amount of a regular gentle detergent. Use less than you might think you should ? it is easy for clothes like these to absorb extra detergent. A run through on the "delicates" cycle with only cold water is all you need to take care of most of the toughest smells and stains on your gym kit. This method works for practically all fabric types. A word of warning, though: once the wash cycle finishes, don't just throw them into your dryer.

Drying your workout clothes after a wash

The best method for drying these items is the most basic: just hang them up and allow the air to dry them how-to-care-for-your-exercise-kit-dry-naturallynaturally. High heat breaks down the bonds that make many of these fabrics stretchy and pliable. Without that stretch, you'll soon find you need to replace your gear to feel as comfortable as you did before. That is why the dryer should only be your last resort. If there is no space indoors or out for you to air dry your clothes, use the lowest heat setting possible. Check on your clothes with some frequency as they tumble to avoid high temperatures. Drying in direct sunlight can help speed the process up, but it could fade the colours on your gear. That's a fair trade in exchange for clothes that lasts longer and smells better, but don't leave your clothes in the sun too long. You could accidentally warm them up as much as you might in the dryer! While this does take some additional time, this approach will yield the most consistent results.

Don't forget about cleaning your shoes

Your clothes aren't the only things that need care. What about your shoes? Workout shoes can be pricey, how-to-care-for-your-exercise-kit-trainersbut they can also be basic, low-cost sneakers. Regardless of which you choose, you should take good care of your shoes. You can start by rotating through several pairs of shoes for your workouts. This method reduces wear and tear and keeps odours at bay. When your shoes do become dirty, though, you can machine wash them too. Remove the insoles and laces for washing separately. Then run them through the gentle cycle with some towels. Allow them to air dry to retain their shape. To eliminate the lingering smell of sweaty feet, you can use a store-bought spray or try a natural remedy. Placing fresh orange peels in your shoes overnight can help to cut back on the smell. Using a mixture of fragrant essential oils and baking soda to clean the inside of the shoes is also an effective method. Regular attention to your shoes, including cleaning dirt and grime from the exterior, will allow them to last longer. The more time you can protect your feet without spending more money on new shoes, the better!

When should you replace your gear?

Speaking of new things, how do you know when it's time to throw things away for good? Kitting yourself out for the gym can be a significant investment for some. For others, low-cost clothes are the way to go; in either case, nothing lasts forever. With shoes, it's easy to tell when they're no longer providing you with the same level of support and comfort throughout your exercise. With clothes, it can be a little tougher. Every few months, pull out all your gym clothes and examine them to decide if they should stay or go. The obvious cases for throwing something away include permanent stains or a funk that lingers no matter what you try. For special fabrics like lycra, look closely at the items from time to time. Stretch the fabric to the level it would be at on your body. Do you see any small tears or rips? These will grow over time and eventually become a hole. If you spot tears, it may be time to replace them with something new. Elasticity will fade over time, too; if you don't feel like the garment fits as well as it did when you bought it, it probably doesn't. That's another prime opportunity to upgrade to something with an improved fit.

The right care habits prevent future problems

If you're tired of dealing with workout clothes that always never seem to smell right no matter how much you wash them, it might be time to reconsider the way you keep them clean. With the tips we've outlined here, blasting the funk away in the wash will be much easier. There won't be a reason to toss those expensive clothes in the bin before their time is up, either. When you know what signs of deterioration to look for, you can stretch the usable life of your gear much farther. From saving time and money to staying comfortable, it pays to keep your clothes clean.