It does not matter how much sweet-smelling fabric softener you add to your laundry – nor does it matter how many personal odor-prevention aids you put on before setting out for regular or competitive runs – you’re going to end up in the Land of Stinky, Dirty Running Clothes by day’s end. It’s a fact of nature: You sweat. And just about everything you eat and drink – and your current state of physical health – can alter body chemicals that wind up in your unique sweat mix, so you might as well accept your fate and develop a bag of tricks to combat the scourge. Must you run up prohibitively high dry cleaning bills to attain your personal level of hygiene? Of course not. Simply “borrow” clever tried-and-true methods employed by runners who have “been there and done that” so that you feel socially acceptable, even after the most arduous marathon.
When the CEO of Levi was interviewed by London’s Daily Mail in 2014, he shocked the world by saying he hadn’t washed the jeans he wore for a year, suggesting others follow his lead by putting jeans in a zip-lock plastic bag and freezing them for 24 hours to get rid of bacteria-causing smells. A UK human ecology professor was skeptical, so she wore and froze a pair for a year, finding bacteria levels to be identical to those found on jeans washed after each wearing! Do you wear jeans to and from runs? Forget the washer.
Smelly running shoes are the bane of everyone engaged in running sports, but if you invest in a cheap box of cornstarch, you can keep the problem at bay. Simply sprinkle a little cornstarch in your shoes before you run, dump the powder after you return and replace the cornstarch with a fresh sprinkling. Keep replacing old with fresh for the cheapest and most environmentally sound way to avoid smelly sneakers.
You bought that salad spinner, used it twice, then stuck it in the closet where all gimmicks go to die. Time to get it out and use it to short-circuit odour problems resulting from running clothing that must be hand-washed. It’s no secret that hand-washing isn’t the best way to get rid of grime and smells for myriad reasons, but it doesn’t help that odours become deeply imbedded during the drip-dry process. Instead, spin undergarments in a salad spinner after you hand wash them to speed drying, thus eliminating offensive odours.
Shaving Cream Hack
Admit it, ladies: you never know who you’ll run into when you’re out on the trail, so you put on a little foundation makeup, a touch of mascara and some lip gloss before you go for a run. If that foundation lands on your running shirt, time to whip out a can of shaving cream when you return — the stuff you use on your legs. The ingredients in shave cream work wonders on makeup bases like foundation, so you can continue to look pretty while you pursue your favourite physical activity.
We live in a world of gadgets, machines, and appliances, so it’s easy to forget that solar power has many restorative uses, not the least of which is its effect on fabric. If you’ve seen the job the sun can do to your upholstery when you leave your blinds open, you understand. As soon as you return from your athletic pursuits, remove your clothing and lay everything from shoes to undergarments in the sun and leave them there until you wash them. This extra solar boost costs nothing.
Your running shoes deserve a performance medal. They charge through street waste, soil, and, if you train on streets, oil remnants left behind by cars idling on Singapore’s busy streets during rush hour traffic. If you notice the unmistakable stains resulting from oil pick-up on your running shoes (or even splatters on your clothing), sprinkle baby powder on the spot and leave it on overnight to absorb the oil, making it easier to remove.
What do you do with toothbrushes when you retire them because the bristles have collapsed and they’re not zipping across your teeth as efficiently as they once did? Re-purpose the dental aid to make direct assaults on your running clothing and shoes! Whether you employ cornstarch, detergent, baking soda or organic powders to remove soil and stain, you’ll accomplish the task twice as efficiently if you use a toothbrush to scrub, particularly around stitched areas where several layers of fabric can hold on to smells and dirt.
You get back from a run and notice that your very favourite running shirt has collected even more sweat than it usually does and left an odour that is so egregious, you might even consider retiring it. Hold on to your old friend by grabbing some lemons from the fridge and squeezing the juice over the area before you wash it. Even large areas of badly stained garments can be rehabilitated using lemons: squeeze juice over an entire garment if your situation is dire before it goes into the wash and you’ll notice the difference when it emerges from the machine.
Stale Bread Crust Hack
Let’s say one of your favourite ways to practice the Zen of relaxation is feeding stale bread chunks to waterfowl at a local riverbank. If your running shoes or accessories have suede trim, you might want to save some of those bread crusts to rehabilitate suede coated with gunk. Stale bread crusts can literally morph into soil erasers if you rub the bread crusts over suede. Try it on leather and synthetic leathers too.
Shoe Stretch Hack
Unless your running shoes are custom-made, you likely suffer a fit issue: Your feet aren’t exactly the same size. Blame Mother Nature. Just about every mirrored body part is slightly distinct, but you don’t have to put up with discomfort because your feet aren’t sized identically. Put the shoe that requires stretching into the freezer (next to your jeans!). Tuck a bag of water into the shoe’s interior and allow it to freeze. Water expands to push against the shoe material to give you that extra room for a perfect fit.
You love everything about synthetics used to manufacture running garb, but the same properties that keep shorts, shirts, and socks in pristine shape produce the worst smells. Synthetics don’t have anti-microbial properties, so offset future problems by reading labels to spot naturally anti-microbial textiles. Can’t find them? Sleuth out specially-formulated washing products like Sport-Wash, WIN and ProWash detergents made to rid spandex, Lycra and polyester of creepy odours trapped in seams. Prefer a product that’s been around for centuries? Dig up a box of 20 Mule Team Borax powder to do the job.
Baking Soda Hack
Let’s say you’ve run out of cornstarch but those post-run shirt stains will not wait for a supermarket run. What’s a smart runner to do? Get out the baking soda. Employ the toothbrush you retired after liberally sprinkling baking soda with a dash of water onto the spot to make a paste and then scrub away. You can also substitute your leave-in cornstarch shoe ritual with baking soda to achieve a sweet-smelling result.
If you’re a typical health-focused Singaporean, you probably have a small library of vinegars on hand for everything from cleaning to preparing gourmet meals, but you can’t lay claim to a full complement of vinegars until you include a jug of cheap white vinegar! Soaking smelly post-run clothing in a mix of one part white vinegar to four parts water for 30 minutes makes one of the easiest disinfect, grime and stain loosening processes on earth. Rinse the clothes before washing them in hot water with a 50-50 mix of detergent and baking soda. If this doesn’t tackle your worst stain and smelly nightmare, nothing will.
What’s Your Secret Cleaning Formula?
Articles like this one usually kick-start the imaginations of our readers—so much so, they’ve been known to send us offbeat formulas for dealing with soiled running apparel. Bet you have a secret cleaning tip; so, how about sharing it with us? We can’t promise you’ll grow wealthy or find love if you share your cleaning recipe, but you might earn the eternal gratitude of a fellow runner eager to try your clever idea!