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How to keep your gym clothes smelling fresh

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To avoid looking like a stuffed sausage in that stylish Spandex unitard, you're going to have to break a sweat, which is all good and fine until said jumpsuit starts to smell like a funky mushroom patch that's been living under your great aunt Hilda's armpit. Here, some tips on how to keep your workout gear in working order (and odour).

Don't be self conscious, just deal with it

There's no need to waste time worrying about your smelly gym gear, because seriously - it's supposed to smell like that. "Performance fabric used in athletic wear is intended to draw moisture - basically oil and salt - out of your body," says Kendra Doersam, creator of No Sweat Laundry Detergent, a product designed to combat gym bag stank. Ms. Doersam recommends any specialty detergent that attacks mildew and bacteria (standard brands deal with surface stains only). Paris Moghtader, who co-owns Moksha Yoga in Brampton, Ont., a studio which specializes in hot yoga, suggests soaking stinky gear in a mixture of vinegar and water for a few hours before washing.

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For goodness sake, don't roll it up in a ball and forget it in your trunk/locker/closet/hockey bag

It's obvious, sure, but the old ball-and-abandon routine remains the single most common infraction in terms of odiferous gym clothes. If you can't get your gear into the wash right away, at least hang the garments up so they can dry. Clothing that's stuffed into a bag stays damp, and pretty soon you'll have mildew or even spores to contend with. As Ms. Doesrsam says, "It becomes a science experiment pretty quickly."

Avoid potpourri prophets

A lot of people will attempt to mask odour using perfume-based products like fabric softener or odour eliminator sprays. Both are a bad idea. "Fabric softener is going to cover your clothing in a film which will prevent your athletic gear from breathing like it is supposed to," says Ms. Moghtader. As for those sweet-smelling sprays, the active ingredient in all of these products is perfume, so yes, it is literally like putting perfume on a particularly sweaty pig.

Air drying isn't just good for the environment

When athletic gear goes in the dryer, hot temperatures will often melt the elastic contained in the fabric. This will trap odour molecules, allowing the stench to take up permanent residency. Dryers are also bad for fading, stretching and pilling, so it's best to dry your workout wear on the line like your grandma did (though chances are your track suit costs more than her first car).

Go au naturel

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Dreaded pit stains are caused when your body's natural oils mix with deodorant or antiperspirant, so skip the pre-gym application or try an all-natural crystal product available at most natural food stores. "It works and it lasts forever," says Ms. Moghtader. If nature's remedies aren't your thing, you can also try tossing soapnuts in your next load of laundry. The 100 per cent biodegradable fruit from the Ritha tree (also packaged at most hippie hubs) has been used for centuries to bust bacteria.

*And don't do this: Get into the shower in your workout gear. It just looks weird, and people are more likely to take you for a never-nude than a stink-o-phobe.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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