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The 10 Best Sport Laundry Detergents of 2021
Get the stink out of your workout clothes
It’s no surprise that gym clothes often smell far worse than our everyday apparel. Even if your exercise routine does not involve wind sprints or similarly sweaty activities, your workout clothes will likely soak up much more sweat than the rest of your wardrobe.
We all know that sweat can cause body odor—this is mostly because the bacteria on our skin feeds on chemicals in our sweat, and their byproducts have an unpleasant smell. The sweat and byproducts can stick to our clothing and make fabric smell even after we’ve removed our clothes.1
Washing that sweat out of your workout clothes is crucial for fresh laundry out of the dryer. This often requires a hardier laundry detergent than what you use on your everyday clothes, formulated specifically to clean your workout apparel and to get rid of smells and stains that sweat can leave behind.
Best Overall: WIN Sports Detergent
View On AmazonPros
- Removes odors from synthetic material
- Can be used on other fabrics, too
- Works in all washers and water temperatures
- Several different scents
- Cap design is lacking
WIN is a best-selling sports detergent, and for good reason. WIN’s odor-fighting, dye-free formula is specifically designed to remove smell from clothes made with synthetic fabrics. Their detergent removes the sweaty oils from your clothes, leaving them smelling fresh and ready for your next workout.
You can also use WIN on other types of fabric, including cotton. This detergent is compatible with HE washers and will work well no matter what water temperature you use. The detergent comes in three versions—active fresh, active teen, and free and clear.
Scents: Active Fresh, Active Teen, Free & Clear | Usage: Standard or HE washing machines | Form: LiquidThe 12 Best Deodorants for Women of 2021
Best Budget: Sweat X Sport Laundry Detergent
- Safe for sensitive skin
- Very concentrated
- Some don’t like the smell
- May need to pre-soak for best results
Specifically designed to rid your clothes of odor-causing bacteria, Sweat X Sport Laundry Detergent restores your workout clothes to their original freshness. The formula is organic, safe for sensitive skin, and is lightly scented with essential oils for a fresh, natural smell. This detergent can be used in all water temperatures and is compatible with traditional and high efficiency (HE) washers.
One capful per load is sufficient to clean even the dirtiest of workout clothes, making this super-concentrated detergent an affordable addition to your laundry room. A single bottle of detergent will last you for approximately 45 loads.
Scent: Light and fresh | Usage: Standard or HE washing machines | Form: Liquid
Best Multipurpose: NATHAN Power Sports Wash
- All-natural ingredients
- Restores fabric performance
- Can be used on sport equipment and gear
- No residue left behind
- Cap design is lacking
It doesn’t matter what kind of fabric you’re looking to clean, the Nathan Power Sports Wash is a safe bet. With a neutral pH formula and all-natural ingredients that remove 99 percent of odors and stains, you can expect clean, fresh clothes that retain their vibrant color.
The formula strips oils and dirt from your workout clothes without breaking down the material or compromising the moisture-wicking and water-resistant qualities of the fabric. The detergent is free of bleach, fabric softener, brighteners, and scents. You can also safely use it on protective sports padding, gloves, braces, and equipment that needs to be washed.
Scent: Neutral | Usage: Standard or HE washing machines | Form: LiquidThe 7 Best Shoe Deodorizers
Best for Bad Smells: OxiClean Odor Blasters Stain & Odor Remover
- Good for strong odors
- Brightens whites
- Powerful stain remover
- Requires pre-soak for best results
- Need to use hot water to dissolve
OxiClean’s Odor Blaster laundry detergent contains an oxygen-based stain remover that’s chlorine-free and color-safe, determined to get the sweaty smell out of your workout clothes. It’s also highly effective at getting musty scents out of old towels and body odor out of everyday clothes.
OxiClean recommends that you use it as a pre-wash soak for extra sweaty clothes, soaking for six hours for best results. The detergent works well with all washing machines and comes in a convenient 5-pound tub.
Scent: Neutral | Usages: Standard and HE washing machines | Form: Powder
Best Heavy-Duty: Tide Heavy Duty Liquid Laundry Detergent
- Good for stain removal
- Works on strong odors
- Less expensive
- Can be used in any water temperature
- Pre-soak needed for best results
- Loads on packaging refer to small loads
Made with four stain-fighting enzymes, increased surfactants, and polymers that make up a formula that promises to get out the worst stains and odors—from caked-on dirt to red wine—this detergent is the definition of heavy-duty.
You can use it in any water temperature and in either a standard or HE washer—you can also soak your stained clothes with the detergent for even more pointed stain removal. The 115-ounce tub promises to last for approximately 60 loads of laundry.
Scent: Original Tide Scent | Usage: Standard and HE washing machines | Form: LiquidThe 14 Best Anti-Odor Workout Clothes of 2021
Best Natural: Sport Suds Laundry Detergent
- Good for sensitive skin
- Suitable for waterproof, breathable materials
- Powerful odor remover
- Not too effective on stains
This hypoallergenic, nontoxic, fragrance-free formula guarantees that your clothes come out of the washer odor-free. It strips your workout wear of bacteria and oils that make them smelly, leaving them fresh without the help of harmful chemicals.
It is safe for those with sensitivities, and it is compatible with individuals concerned about the ethics behind their detergent—it’s made from entirely naturally occurring ingredients of non-animal origin. One pouch of Sport Suds washes over 140 full machine loads.
Scent: Fragrance-free | Usage: Standard and HE washing machines | Form: PowderThe 8 Best Sneaker Cleaners of 2021
Best for Allergies: Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Free & Clear Detergent
- Good for sensitive skin
- No dyes or perfumes
- Can be used to pre-soak clothes
- Cap is hard to read for measuring
- May leak around the cap
It can be hard to find a laundry detergent that is strong enough to get out sweat without any irritants, especially for those with hypersensitive skin. Arm & Hammer’s Sensitive Skin Free & Clear makes that search easy, with its dermatologist-tested formula that’s free of dyes and perfumes.
The formula keeps the signature Arm & Hammer baking soda freshness, stripping away sweat and other body odor smells that stink up your workout clothes. You can use it to soak clothes, as well as in standard and HE washers with any water temperature.
Scent: Unscented | Usage: Standard and HE washing machines | Form: LiquidThe 14 Best Anti-Odor Workout Clothes of 2021
Best Pods: Tide PODS Plus Febreze Sport Odor Defense
- Works well in cold water
- Fights tough odors and stains
- Brightens fabrics
- May need to use more than one for big loads
- Some don’t like the scent
These Tide Pods have the added power of Febreze, bringing even more freshness to those smelly gym shorts. In only one wash, the pods can renew your clothing’s scent—even if they’re a week or two old—thanks to Tide’s 4-in-1 technology that cleans, brightens fabric, fights stains, and freshens clothes.
The pods dissolve completely in all water temperatures, with one pod adding an equivalent of up to 10 cups of leading liquid laundry detergents. Depending on how big (and how smelly) your load of laundry is, you may need to add a second pod for added freshness. The Tide Pods are compatible with both regular and HE washers.
Scent: Febreze | Usage: Standard and HE washing machines | Form: Pods
Best Eco-Friendly: HEX Performance Advanced Laundry Detergent, Free + Clear
View On AmazonPros
- Works on all fabrics
- Powerful on odors and stains
- Some scents are better than others
For an eco-friendly solution to your sweaty, stinky activewear, HEX Performance detergent is a total game-changer. It’s designed to clean tight-knit, synthetic fabrics and remove stubborn odors and stains that are resistant to traditional detergents. In addition to leaving clothes smelling fresh, HEX prolongs the life of your activewear and protects its breathability, stretchability, and wicking capability.
While it leaves your technical wear feeling like new, it’s also safe and gentle for all other fabrics, including cotton and wool.
The hypoallergenic, biodegradable formula works with all temperature cycles and in regular or high-efficiency washing machines. Plus, HEX is completely free of dyes, fillers, perfumes, optical brighteners, or phosphates. While it costs more than some other sports detergents, it’s well worth the investment.
Scents: Unscented, Citrus, Lavender, Linen, Fresh & Clean | Usage: Standard and HE washing machines | Form: Liquid
Best Powder: Vapor Fresh Laundry Detergent Powder
View On AmazonPros
- No dyes, fragrances, brighteners, or softeners
- Works on all types of fabrics
- Dissolves quickly in any water temperature
- A bit pricey
- Not as convenient as liquid
Designed for activewear, Vapor Fresh laundry detergent doesn’t contain the dyes, brighteners, softeners and other additives found in regular detergents that can trap odors and stains. It’s strong enough to remove even the toughest soils and smells from your gym clothes and sports uniforms. Yet it’s also gentle and safe to use on the rest of your laundry, so you don’t have to worry about sorting your clothes and doing separate loads.
The hypoallergenic formula is eco-friendly, biodegradable, and even works in cold water, which will help reduce your energy costs. The 3.5-pound pouch will last for up to 100 loads.
Scents: Unscented | Usage: Standard or HE washing machine | Form: Powder
If you want a high-performance, all-in-one detergent that will eliminate stains, sweat, and body odor without harsh additives, the WIN Sports Detergent (view at Amazon) is an excellent choice. It does a stellar job of getting rid of stubborn body odor smells without a lot of extra effort, such as pre-soaking.
With a choice of three different scents, it has something for everyone, whether you want some fragrance or none at all.
What to Look for in Sport Laundry Detergents
What sets sports detergents apart from regular detergents is that they’re specifically designed for technical fabrics and can dislodge the stubborn odors and stains that build up in those clothes.
“Traditional detergents typically just mask the problem with heavy perfumes instead of addressing the real issue, the fabric,” says Drew Westervelt, founder and CEO of HEX Performance. “Activewear is made of fabrics that are plastic, which is a hard surface, versus porous like cotton. You really need a detergent built to clean the surfaces we wash in order to properly clean and protect the garments so they continue to breath, wick, and stretch as intended.”
Look for detergents that are formulated specifically to launder your activewear and sports uniforms and can handle tough smells and stains.
Cost is a big consideration because sports detergents are usually more expensive than regular laundry detergents and you’ll go through a lot of it. Like many products, you’ll usually get a better deal with a larger size. When considering the cost per load, keep in mind that the listed number of loads on some packaging is often for small loads, so you may actually use a lot more detergent for a full-size load.
Scented vs. Unscented
Do you like your clothes to smell like fresh lavender or clean linen, or do you prefer a neutral scent? Some detergents are strongly scented, while others are available in an unscented variety. Unscented products are more likely to be hypoallergenic, all-natural, and eco-friendly.
What is the best way to wash sports clothes?
The most important step for washing sports clothes is to use a detergent that’s specifically designed to remove smells and stains from technical fabrics, such as the ones included here. For especially smelly or dirty clothes, you can pre-soak your gear in a mixture of cold water and a half cup of white vinegar for 15 to 30 minutes.
When washing them in your machine, use the recommended amount of detergent, based on your type of machine and load size. Turn your clothes inside out so that the detergent and water can get right to where most of the stains and smells are concentrated.
“While using cold water is the most energy efficient, the warmer temperature water you use, the better results you will have as it aids in activating the detergent you’re using,” says Westervelt. “Therefore, I always suggest a hotter temperature at least to start for heavier soiled items to really pull out the buildup.”
To combat foul smells and prolong the life of your high-performance sports clothes, you should let them hang dry or tumble dry on a no-heat setting.
Does laundry detergent expire?
Like many household cleaners, laundry detergent typically doesn’t have an expiration date on it, but for best results, they should be used within a year of purchase. If you’ve already opened the detergent, use it within six months.
How much laundry detergent should you use?
The amount of laundry detergent to use for a load of laundry depends on several factors, including the type of washing machine, size of the load, how soiled the clothes are, hardness of your water, and concentration of the detergent.
For example, high-efficiency washers use less water, so if you put in too much detergent, it won’t get dissolved. On the other hand, if you have a really big or heavily-soiled load, you’ll need to use more. Carefully read the instructions for use on the laundry detergent packaging so you know the right amount to use.
Does laundry detergent kill germs?
Washing fabrics with laundry detergent doesn’t kill most germs outright. However, washing clothes in a machine with detergent will dislodge germs from the fabric. The spin cycle then gets rid of the soapy water, along with the germs.
Why Trust Verywell Fit?
As a former fitness coach, long-time wellness enthusiast, and current health editor, Lily Moe understands the importance of products that meet your individual requirements. As a marathon runner, she knows that workout clothes need more TLC than other aspects of your wardrobe, requiring a laundry detergent that does the tough job.
Lily also has sensitive skin, so she personally only uses free and clear detergents. Most importantly, Lily always looks for research and first-hand reviews when it comes to deciding on a product.
Additional reporting by Christine Luff.
Certified running coach and fitness writer Christine Luff has spent years researching, testing, and recommending fitness and athletic products and knows that the right gear can tremendously improve performance and comfort.