A clean pair of clothes...really?
December 29, 2008 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Is gym-provided workout clothing safe to wear?

I'm trying out a fancy gym close to work that provides work out clothes in addition to towels and other amenities.

It sounds like a great concept. I would rather not carry a change of clothes and then have to handle wet sweaty clothes until I get home. But what are the risks?

The clothes come from a common pool, like towels, so you don't keep your own. Someone else may have worn the shirt or shorts the previous time.

They also provide jock straps, but that's touching a little too close for comfort.

The clothes look and smell clean but I'm concerned about things like skin diseases spreading to me and possibly some sort of STD.

I mean, people buy and wear used clothes from thrift stores after washing them. Is a wash cycle with hot water and soap enough to eliminate most of the risk?

I have little understanding of how hardy virus, bacteria, fungus, skin flakes really are. Please enlighten me.
posted by abdulf to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If they're washing them according to industrial laundering standards, they're probably safe.

But... ew.
posted by Netzapper at 1:54 PM on December 29, 2008

That's the key. You never know when some college kid/lazy person will handle the clothes and decide that it's not dirty enough to wash.

That probably won't happen. And I'm assuming that the gym would probably take steps to make sure that doesn't happen. So you're probably safe. But in this case, probably wouldn't be good enough for me.

I would just bring my workout clothes in a plastic or ziplock bag. Close it up and you should be fine until you get home.
posted by theichibun at 2:06 PM on December 29, 2008

I doubt much will survive a standard wash in a commercial washing machine/dryer. Most of the diseases you should worry about can't survive long outside the body. We're talking on the scale of minutes.

Do you worry about STDs from public toilets? Properly washed gym clothes should be cleaner. I think you're more likely to catch something from recently used exercise equipment.

However, you never know when corners will be cut. The big thing I'd worry about is staph/MRSA infections. Of course, I always worry about staph infections.

Give it a shot. Even if you got something, which I doubt you will, it will be treatable. As far as I know, even MRSA -- while scary -- is more often just annoying than fatal.
posted by sbutler at 2:30 PM on December 29, 2008

Yes, it's safe. Or at least as safe as using the towels, which are probably being washed in the same load.

If you're not squicked out by using a gym towel to dry off after a shower, you shouldn't be squicked out by this.
posted by tkolar at 2:32 PM on December 29, 2008

If you're not allergic to the strongest commercial detergents + bleach, these should be fine. If you're at all allergic to such things, this will probably not end well.
posted by batmonkey at 2:41 PM on December 29, 2008

The big thing I'd worry about is staph/MRSA infections.

Certainly worth worrying about. As you point out, equipment and other surfaces may be more problematic.
posted by gimonca at 2:49 PM on December 29, 2008

I assume you are not borrowing underwear, just shorts and t-shirts. Should be safe.

You will know if the clothes you borrow are clean - they should smell and feel freshly laundered, and they should also be crisply folded. Clothes at gyms tend to be made of materials that can be washed at high temperatures and with harsh detergents. I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:10 PM on December 29, 2008

Best answer: Even infected BLOOD will not last though a normal wash cycle on a standard household washer-and-dryer. (Although I wash twice for peace of mind when people bleed on me.) So sweat vs. industrial cleaning shouldn't be a problem in any way shape or form.

This was always the standard at the University in my hometown, where they handed out shorts and t-shirts and towels and it never even occured to me to worry about sanitary issues.
posted by tiamat at 4:54 PM on December 29, 2008

It's certainly not any grosser than hotel towels, and I use those without batting an eyelash.
(Data point: my germ-phobic mom travels with her own towel, though.)
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:14 PM on December 29, 2008

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