How to Wash And Care For Your Cycling Clothing

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.


  1. 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.
  2. Don’t ever wear your bike clothes twice without washing them. Even if you didn’t wear them for long.
  3. Before washing them, close all zippers or other compartments.
  4. Turn shorts and jerseys inside out to wash.
  5. Only wash them with other cycling (or fitness) clothing.
  6. 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!)
  7. Check your pockets…make sure there are no energy gels or bars. (And you may find some money, like I have in the past!)
  8. Wash by hand, or on the gentle cycle in your washer (30 degrees Celsius/86 degrees Fahrenheit).
  9. 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.
  10. Don’t use detergents with perfumes or dyes as this may harm fabrics.

The reality

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)


  1. I hang my cycling and other workout clothes up when I get home to dry and air them — outside, if weather permits. I like to run a full load, so once a week I wash everything cold, delicate cycle with only unscented detergent. (I don’t like the way perfumed detergents smell when I start to sweat).
    My tip is to put white distilled vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser. This takes care of all smells and bacteria. You could probably let them soak for a bit, if your washer allows it.
    I always line dry sport clothes (or on a rack in the house if it’s inclement). I never put them in the dryer.

    BTW — white vinegar works for cat pee smell, too.

  2. I use Penguin Sports Wash and soak my tops in the sink after each use. Then I hang them to dry and wash them again in the washer with my other sports clothing. Before I did this, I would just let them air dry and sit for a few days until wash day. I found that the stink of sweat never was fully gone with this method. But since I started using the Penguin Sports wash, I no longer have that “funk” smell. And Penguin Sports wash even got cat urine smell out of my spin shoes! My cat peed on my spin shoes only two weeks after I bought them! Penguin Sports wash got it out immediately with one soak.

  3. Author

    Some really great tips here, thanks everyone!

    I was having a discussion on FB with someone about this who said his cycling clothes from his indoor rides smell more than those from his outdoor rides. I’ve noticed that too.

    The reason is because there’s more evaporation outdoors, even if it’s fairly humid, the fact that you are moving allows the air to pass over your body causing increased evaporation. Indoors, without the means for evaporation, you get a lot more soaked, and the fabric will just hold on to the moisture. Before long it will start to smell (bacteria). That’s why it’s a good idea to rinse out your clothes after your indoor rides, even if you can’t fully wash them yet.

  4. I have tried many soaking (vinegar) and detergent types and found one that keeps any after smells at bay. I use delicate cycle (which is like a roto rooter) with clothes in mesh bags. All gets hung to dry and no smells to date. Trader Joes Natural Plant based detergent has done the trick. I’ve used specialty-The Laundress Sport to the usual suspects from the grocery aisle. I also remove the inner liner from my cycling shoes and wash as well For the shoes. AMAZING PRODUCT from POO POURRI called SHO POURRI. Zero smell in the shoes. I do use MOSO bags in my shoes after every class.

  5. Jennifer – I disagree with turning the bibs inside out. I turn the jerseys inside out, but I like to protect the pads on my bibs, so I wash them with the pads on the inside. Also, Tide makes small, fine mesh, double pouched, double zippered bags for washing two bras at a time (I used to do all laundry at my house, even my wife’s delicates); I use the bags for gloves, sweat bands, Road ID bands, etc.

    You can buy expensive, bike clothing specific detergent, but All with no scents and no colors works very well. Don’t forget to wash your helmet pads and to dip the helmet straps in cold water occasionally, to get the salt off.

  6. I tried WIN and it was good, but I like 2Toms Stink Free Detergent much more. Less than 2oz. per washload and it really works! $15 for 30oz makes it less than $1/load.

    I’ll admit I do put my clothes in the dryer on low, but I also separate my Velcro in a lingerie bag!

  7. Sometimes your clothing starts to “smell funny” 😉 What works for me is to put the smelly items in a bucket hand warm water and add 100ml of simple plain white vinaigre. Rub the parts that need the most attention. Stir and let it rest for an hour or overnight. Rince and wash like you normally do.

  8. Lingerie bag is my go to method for velcro etc but swear by using a cap full of CANESTEN Hygiene Laundry Rinse or DETTOL in every load. Kills all the germs and gets rid of all residual yucky odor! Means a cold wash is fine too.

  9. Cool water, homemade laundry soap (one box borax, one box washing soda, one grated bar of Fels-Naptha soap, 1/2 c per load) and nothing in the rinse or in the low-heat dryer = stink-free, long-lasting clothes!

    1. Author

      This is a great idea to make your own soap, thanks for sharing! What is “washing soda”? Where do you get these ingredients?

  10. I have a separate tall collapsible laundry basket for my workout stuff. Sort of like this (though this isn’t my exact one):

    I hang sweaty stuff over the edge so it can dry before it gets tossed in.

    My favorite detergent is WIN. It’s formulated to keep the stink out of workout gear. There is a “regular” version (mild scent that I actually don’t mind) or an unscented “enviro/green” version. I’ve also used Penguin sport detergent; it works well too.

    Warm wash, cold rinse, line dry.

    1. where can you find WIN or Penguin. Not heard of this. I also use some ammonia to sanitize. always separate from everything else and haven’t had any bacterial related issues.

      1. Author

        You know what works really well for sanitizing, without the toxicity of ammonia, is distilled vinegar! I get a big jug from Costco, and soak my clothes that don’t seem to lose the subtle stink, even after several washings. It rinses clean, with no residual smell, it’s cheap and it works! Just soak overnight, then wash in the washer as usual. I only need to do this a few times a year.

        1. YES! Vinegar! I swear by it. I use it every time I wash my workout clothes.

      2. Hi Renee,

        WIN has a website ( where you can look up retailers. Amazon also sells both WIN and Penguin.

        I love vinegar too for many things, but it doesn’t totally take the stink out of workout clothes for me.

  11. I wash my ‘velcro’ items at the same time as my ride kit but I put them (the gloves, etc. – items with velcro) into an old lingerie bag that my wife had in the laundry room.

    1. Oh, and I machine wash, delicate cycle (warm wash, cold rinse), and always hang dry. My wife won’t wash the gear because I am so fussy about how it is treated.

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