Washing Your Gym Kit? Say No To Softener

Did you know that you should never use fabric softener when you wash your gym kit? I didn’t until I saw the tip mentioned in a magazine article I was reading this weekend. The piece didn’t give me much more information or a source and so, intrigued, I decided I had to find out more.

It seems that the tip applies if you’ve got kit made from wicking fabric, which most specialist running or other athletic kit is likely to be made from. The job of wicking fabric is to help lift sweat off the skin faster than normal which prevents chafing but also helps regulate your temperature as you workout. It does this, primarily, because of the way it’s woven – the special weave has holes within it that the sweat enters, this is then ‘pulled’ up to the surface of the garment where it then evaporates in to the air. The problem with fabric softener is that it can get into these holes effectively plugging them prevent the ‘wick’ process from occurring. If you want your kit to wick well you therefore should skip the softener when you wash it.

While I was investigating all of this I also found out something else interesting – according to running wear company Janji the wicking process doesn’t actually work as well when you’re running on a treadmill. Sweat will still absorb into the fabric but it won’t then evaporate out into the air as well as it does outside – if you’ve ever thought you sweated more during your gym workouts than your outdoor sessions this could be why. It’s not that you’re actually producing more fluid, or working harder, just that more is collecting in your kit.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of sweat, I recently wrote an entire article on it and it was strangely fascinating as a subject. Here’s five things I learned…

  • While everyone sweats, not everyone’s sweat smells. How much the scent of sweat bothers you is actually genetically determined.
  • Odour only forms if you have certain (harmless) types of bacteria in the armpit called corynebacteria and micrococci. These create odour as they break down natural fats in sweat and the more of them you have the more odour is created. This is why you can get odour in one armpit and not the other.
  • These bugs can also grow on polyester fabric like gym kit – this will cause odour when you wear the kit, even if you’re not sweating much.
  • Antiperspirants actually change the microbe balance in the armpit so that the odour causing bugs thrive. If you suffer from body odour, try switching to deodorant instead and see if that makes a difference.
  • Soap removes fat left on the skin from sweat. Remove this and the bacteria can’t break it down and odour is lessened.

See I told you it was strangely interesting. Or is it just me that finds weird biological facts oddly compelling?

 

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

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