Best Way to Get Sweat Smell Out of Clothes

Whether you’re an exercise enthusiast like I am or the parent of children who play sports, you are likely looking for the best way to get sweat smell out of clothes. This was a challenge I faced for years when my daughters were playing soccer, field hockey, volleyball and more.

Who knew that knee pads could smell? Why do cleats always smell sour? Is there any way to make it so that the clothes no longer smelled like sweat, body odor or worse?

Thankfully, I’ve learned a few ways–and discovered a few products–that can help keep my sports bras, exercise leggings and more smelling fresh and clean. These are laundry odor tips that anyone can use. Here are my four tips for the best way to get sweat smell out of clothes.

sweat smell out of clothes

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1. Don’t leave your wet clothes in a ball on the floor

After living through a decade of high school sports with teenagers, I learned a very important lesson about workout clothes. If you leave them wet in a ball on the floor (or in a gym locker or in the trunk of the car), you’re doomed. Basically, you’ll get a stank you’ll never forget and you’ll never get the sweat smell out of clothes.

So, how do you get the wet smell out of clothes? Don’t let them stay wet. You can try my laundry hack of hanging up my clothes after workouts.

That is, I drape them over the side of the laundry basket if I know I couldn’t get to wash them right away. I’m telling you, the vented laundry basket and the draping are a game changer.

You can find it on Amazon or at Target.

2. Buy the best detergent for removing body odor

One of the most common questions people ask when trying to get sweat smell out of clothes is “What is the best laundry detergent for removing body odor?” or “what is the best detergent for smelly workout clothes?”

And the answer is? There are actually a couple of laundry detergent options that are the best for removing body odor. Here are four.

Laundry detergent suggestions

  1. Persil laundry detergent
    I’ve seen so many people raving about Persil Proclean laundry detergent. It really does remove the sweat smell from clothes and get BO out of clothes. From what I can tell this might be one of the best odor fighting laundry detergent. You can buy Persil as a traditional liquid laundry detergent or you can buy Persil laundry pods.
  2. Rockin’ Green
    I’d never heard of the Rockin’ Green powdered laundry detergent. It is all natural and eco-friendly, and people on the Peloton Facebook group swear by it. Here’s what one woman had to say: “I soaked a few of my favorite workout tops and sports bras for a few hours. Then washed and dried them. No more stink!”
  3. Forever New laundry detergent
    Though it is made specifically for delicate items, I’ve found that this powdered laundry detergent can tackle some of the toughest odors. Though it is marketed for hand washables and lingerie, it works great in the washing machine on workout gear.
  4. Tide with Febreze
    Don’t spray Febreze when your clothes still smell of sweat after washing. Here’s a better approach. If you love Febreze, get Tide detergent with Febreze. Like Persil you can buy Tide with Febreze as a pod or Tide with Febreze as a liquid detergent in a big jug. You may also want to check out Tide Odor Rescue, too–a laundry additive.
  5. Make Your Own Laundry Detergent
    Here is my “recipe” for DIY laundry detergent.

Finally, when it doubt, use vinegar in the laundry to remove smell. That may seem counterintuitive, since vinegar itself is sour smelling. But this old-fashioned laundry hack still works pretty well. Think of it as a natural laundry odor eliminator.

Have a Peloton bike or tread? Check out these 15 must-have accessories and essentials.

3. Air dry your workout clothes after washing

Heat is not your workout clothes’ friend. Not only can heat break down the fibers in your clothing, but heat can also bake the sweat smell into your clothing.

Once that happens you’ve never going to get the sweat smell out of clothes. So if you don’t want clothes to smell like sweat after washing, don’t put them in the dryer.

I would recommend you invest in a clothes drying rack. Maybe you’ve already got one in your laundry room. I know I do.

I’ve also got a wire shelf in my laundry room where I can hang up clothing once the drying rack is full. If you try this, go for the “huggable” hangers. They won’t leave weird bumps in the shoulders of your clothing.

sweat smell out of clothes
This is my laundry room. Notice how I’m drying my workout clothes.

4. Be mindful of how to wash sports bras

Unlike other workout clothing, there is a right way and wrong way for how to wash sports bras. I’ll just stick with the right way. And that is:

  1. Invest in a lingerie bag. I always put mine in this lingerie mesh bag first before washing sports bras. I’ve used this method for years. Because of it my sports bras have lasted for years.
  2. You should always be washing sports bras on the gentle cycle in the washing machine, using cold water. That is if you’re not hand washing them. That’s always an option.
  3. Invest in a laundry detergent made for, um, delicates. As mentioned above, Forever New laundry detergent is the one I use for all of my bras–both regular and sports. Hands down it is the best product for washing sports bras. You can use it for hand washing, too.
  4. Hang the sports bras up to dry or draped them over a drying rack. As the tips above stated, you do not want to put this kind of workout gear in the dryer or you’ll never get that sweat smell out of clothes, including your sports bras.
  5. If it’s time to buy new sports bras, check out my review of the best workout clothing subscription boxes.

Pre-treat your body to cut down on odors

Did you end up on this article because your balls sweat and smell? Or you sweat in between your boobs (like I do), and want to rid your clothes of that musky smell?

Well, you can do that by pre-treating that skin with an odor-neutralizing product. I just discovered one that’s awesome.

It’s called Happy Nuts Comfort Cream (for those with testicles) and Happy Curves Comfort Cream (for those with boobs).

Just apply before you exercise or head out for the day, and I swear you’ll notice that you stink way less afterwards or at the end of the day. Then, when you smell less, your clothes will smell less, too.

Final thoughts on smelly laundry

These four tips should make it so those stinky workout clothes won’t bum you out anymore. Cheers to better smelling exercise gear! And to make your shopping for the best way to get sweat smell out of clothes, I’ve put together this shopping list over on Amazon.

Finally, I tried odor additives for laundry. You know, scent beads like Downy Unstopables. So, you can check out my review of the best laundry scent boosters here.