I came across this blog post by Liv cycling products on how to wash and care for your cycling clothing. It’s a company that manufacturers women’s clothing and gear, but we’ll let the guys in on the cleaning secrets too!
They have a list of Dos and Don’ts that you should read in their post. But I will highlight them here, with a few of my own suggestions.
- If you can’t wash your cycling clothes right away, turn them inside out and hang them up so they don’t stay in a dirty, wet pile. Hanging them reduces odor-causing bacteria.
- Don’t ever wear your bike clothes twice without washing them. Even if you didn’t wear them for long.
- Before washing them, close all zippers or other compartments.
- Turn shorts and jerseys inside out to wash.
- Only wash them with other cycling (or fitness) clothing.
- Don’t wash them with anything that has Velcro, as it may tear or abrade the fragile fabric. (I’ve ruined more than a few pairs of shorts by washing my cycling gloves at the same time! It may not be a problem with indoor cycling but you may have other items that have Velcro. Beware!)
- Check your pockets…make sure there are no energy gels or bars. (And you may find some money, like I have in the past!)
- Wash by hand, or on the gentle cycle in your washer (30 degrees Celsius/86 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Do not use the dryer; hang your cycling clothes on a line. Even low temperatures of dryer heat can damage delicate fabrics and cause fit and technical components to become compromised. Make sure they are completely dry; never put cycling clothes away damp.
- Don’t use detergents with perfumes or dyes as this may harm fabrics.
For many years, I have used a regular wash cycle on warm with a cool rinse. As much as possible, I wash only cycling and workout clothes together. After reading this, I may start using the delicate cycle at a lower temperature and see if it works as well. However, I did find this article on the dangers of not using hot enough water. It may make you decide that the trade-off of a slightly shorter lifespan of your cycling clothing is worth it when you feel better about guaranteeing bacteria is killed with hot water. You may also want to make sure your dirty cycling clothing is not mixed in the same hamper as other clothes or towels.
I hang-dry my cycling clothing 85%–90% of the time. But I have also read that throwing them in a dryer can help reduce bacteria, so every once in a while I will toss the lot into the dryer (especially when I am in a hurry or need a specific kit or jersey that is in the wash). For my next batch of brand-new gear, I may hand-wash them and keep them out of the dryer.
It’s a conundrum if you are also trying to be environmentally responsible by choosing lower temps in the wash and not running the dryer as often. As you know, you don’t wear underwear with cycling shorts and, well, we come into contact with the chamois of those shorts with a lot of pressure on the saddle for long periods, so they can be particularly, um, soiled. This is one reason that hand-washing is a better option, though it is more time-consuming; you can guarantee that they are cleaner, even if you use a lower temp.
You may have to decide what what the trade-offs are for you…spending more time caring for your gear by hand-washing everything, risking possible bacteria with lower temps on the gentle cycle and never using the dryer, or putting up with a slightly shorter lifespan if you use higher temps in the washer and/or the dryer.
In a Pinch
There have been times that I’ve taken my cycling clothes into the shower with me and hand rinsed them after a particularly sweaty ride—both after indoor and outdoor rides. I did this when I knew I didn’t have enough to warrant a load in the washer (like, say, just after I did a whole load of my cycling gear).
This made sure they didn’t sit around and stink for a few days, even if I let them dry before piling them into the hamper. The only problem was when I hung them to dry, I had to make a mental note for later that they were not fully cleaned, and not mistakenly put them away in my drawers. I’ve made that mistake before….and yes, they did smell a little bit when I wore them next!
I suppose one could completely hand wash them in the shower, but unless you kept specially designed liquid soap for hand washing in the shower, you would be using body soap or shampoo. That would probably be ok occasionally (and I’ve done it on multi-day self-supported rides in the past), but those soaps are more expensive and often have special products like softeners and fragrances that your clothes don’t need or want.
What do you do to wash your cycling clothing? Do you hand-wash or use the gentle cycle in the washer, or throw them in with everything else? Do you hang-dry or put them in the dryer? Do you have a favorite cleaning product you use? If so, please share in the comments.
Thanks for all your input!
(Photo Flickr Creative Commons, by Xuan Che)