If you’re reading this and have ever exercised, played a sport or even just been in an environment that caused you to sweat, you’ll likely have come across regular workout clothes that despite being washed still smell bad.

  • Your favourite gym t-shirt that is often left damp at the bottom of your gym bag for a few hours
  • That favourite towel you take to your squash games
  • Those shin pads that you wear every Sunday
  • Or those trainers you wear every morning for your run

The one thing these can all have in common is the buildup of bacteria, and your average washing machine cycle eventually cannot keep up.

This was a frustration for me. Gym t-shirts and vests that were washed and straight out the tumble dryer smelt like they had just been worn on a marathon run across a humid swamp. This was before I had even started my warm up.

Oscar the Grouch
Don't be this guy at the gym

As much as working out is about reps, sets, weight, times, distances and skill acquisition. There are other practical elements to concern ourselves with before we even start training. We all feel better in some well fitting and fresh smelling gym attire. Anything that makes you feel better is likely to help you maintain the habit of exercise.

I recently wrote about the benefits of good bacteria with a method for making homemade Kefir. This time we will find out a quick, cheap and reliable way to get rid of the bad bacteria building up on our fitness gear.

Presoaking with Distilled Vinegar

Equipment needed

1 Bottle of distilled vinegar

  • Costs around 30 to 40p per bottle
  • Make sure it is distilled which will be clear in colour

1 Bucket or similar container large enough to fit your bundle of clothes or gear

  • Can be bought for a little as £1 from places like poundland

Distilled Vinegar


  1. Place all the dirty clothes in a bucket or container

  2. Fill with cold water until the clothes are full covered

  3. Pour in the distilled vinegar

  • Per average sized bucket you will need around ¼ (140ml) of a bottle of vinegar

  1. Swish clothes around to make sure they are all submerged

  2. Leave for at least 30 minutes

  • Leaving for longer or overnight has not caused any issues for me

  1. Finally wash in your usual way

Bucket of Clothes


  • This above method works so well that I know save up all my gym clothes for the week in a separate dirty laundry bag and then soak them all at once. Even the clothes sitting around for almost a week, come out smelling good.
  • Do not worry about your clothes smelling like vinegar, as long as you stick to distilled vinegar in the ratio suggested, the bacteria will be killed without any residual vinegar odors.
  • Due to no hot water needed for this method, your clothes are not in danger or shrinking or being heat damaged.
  • For footwear I have found the initial best method is to rotate footwear regularly. In the worst case it is fine to presoak as described above and then to do a cold rinse cycle. Ideally drying naturally in the sun or airing cupboard.