Is my tech running shirt too smelly to save?
September 13, 2010 10:02 AM   Subscribe

My usual method of de-stinking my tech running shirt isn't working. What have you found works?

I've been using Penguin tech wash on my tech shirts and have been happy with the results until recently. I'm not sure if it's because I've been going on longer runs, but my shirts still smell after my usual washing routine, which is:

- place shirt in sink (inside out) with 1/2 bottle cap or so of tech wash and cold water;

- agitate two or three times during a 30 minutes period;

- rinse twice and dry on clothes rack outside.

The running shirt is New Balance, bought about 3 or 4 months ago. (I have other tech shirts that I wear in rotation.)

Is there some other tech wash or method I can try to remove the odor from my running shirts? What have you found works well at removing the b.o. on your tech shirts? Or is the life of a running shirt limited and once they get The Stink, it's time to get another one? I would like to hear from runners who wear tech shirts.

Bonus points if the tech wash is inexpensive.

(If it's relevant: I usually run three times a week and I hang up my running clothes to air out immediately after I get home, washing them later that day or the next day.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I've had some success soaking the shirts for a few hours in ammonia and water (around a cup of ammonia in a bucket of water), then dumping the whole bucket into a washing machine, adding regular laundry detergent and washing it on hot. Generic ammonia is really cheap.

It works OK usually, but after a couple wearings they start to smell again. I've given up on these shirts because it's just a pain in the butt and I hate the smell. I wear cotton/poly blends now and I don't have the stench problem.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:12 AM on September 13, 2010

Try a washing machine. Failing that, more changes of water.
posted by zachlipton at 10:26 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, this works for stinky towels in my experience:

1/2 cup of Borax
1/2 cup of white vinegar
Win Sports Detergent

I put the Borax directly in the washer's tub with the clothes and the vinegar in the fabric soften compartment. This works for really stinky wet towels (the ones you've forgotten and left in a wet pile for weeks), so I'll bet it works for sweaty clothes too. If you're going to handwash them, wear gloves or you'll dry your skin out.

Don't throw your sports clothes away just because they stink (that's what The Evil Manufacturers want you to do so you'll keep buying new ones). The smell will some out; you just have to be patient and find the right combo of ingredients that works for your particular issue.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:27 AM on September 13, 2010

If you have a washer with a gentle cycle, try baking soda and borax (about .5 cup of each). Adding 3-4 drops each of tea tree and eucalyptus oils to the regular wash also works to get smells out.
posted by Aleen at 10:27 AM on September 13, 2010

When my boyfriend came back from two weeks sweating in Shanghai in the middle of the summer, all of his shirts (under armor, nike, and similar) stunk. After a good, long soak in detergent+baking soda and a regular wash, they were ok again.
posted by phunniemee at 10:28 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

P.S. I've successfully used that method with our tech shirts also, but I think the wet, stinky towel challenge is the ultimate test of any laundry detergent.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:32 AM on September 13, 2010

Sunlight (if line drying is acceptable in your neighborhood)
posted by caddis at 10:42 AM on September 13, 2010

I rinse the shirt in tap water when it comes off my body, preferably before the sweat dries. I wash my running shirts with all of my other laundry, usually on warm with a cold wash. I've been wearing the same shirts for years, and they don't stink until after they get sweaty, by which time I'm stinky too.
posted by OmieWise at 10:52 AM on September 13, 2010

This is a persistent problem in our household. I have some success simply wearing whatever stinks into the swimming pool for about 1km of laps, then wash in the washing machine with powder detergent (more soluble/rinseable than liquid) and borax. I hang the clothes outside for as long as possible - sunlight kills funk.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:00 AM on September 13, 2010

Try an enzyme cleaner sold in pet-supplies stores and janitorial-supplies outlets; you don't want the enzyme laundry additive sold in supermarkets because it's heavily scented. My brother's a big runner and he swears by it. I've used it for pet urine and blood and other organic stains and odors. It's much cheaper to buy a concentrated product (liquid or powder) and mix it with water, rather than go with a ready-to-use solution. Also, the diluted products have a short shelf life of three months or so. Any Enzyme cleaner does its work only while it's wet. The product I've been using lately is Odorfix Plus, but I've liked all the unscented concentrated ones I've tried. Don't mix in any baking soda or vinegar, because it makes the enzyme product less effective.
posted by wryly at 11:00 AM on September 13, 2010

Wash it with a couple of drops of Dr Bronner's tea tree "magic soap" added to a basin of water. That stuff really is magic, and the tea tree does wonders for any lingering bacterial odour.
posted by sunshinesky at 11:23 AM on September 13, 2010

Not sure if it's compatible with your fabric, but ammonia does the job on my sweaty gear.
posted by Citrus at 11:24 AM on September 13, 2010

Perhaps you might try a washer. The constant agitation and rinsing might help knock loose whatever it is that's not getting out.

We run a load of athletic gear pretty much daily. Just toss the assorted stuff into the washer and let it run. Then we air dry the gear. No smells.
posted by Argyle at 11:44 AM on September 13, 2010

I'm a ski patroller and I have tried everything on my base layers - The best product for technical fabrics is McNett MiraZyme. It's available from Amazon. It's a collection of enzymes that destroy all of the odor causing oils and bacteria. It seems to be very gentle to the fabric, and is absolutely the best at removing odor.

As a side note - it's great for puppy bedding that has a urine smell.
posted by tumble at 12:37 PM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Okay - this is from a show I worked on and is probably over-the-top and a bit hard core...

1. Scrub the pits, other stinky places with Fels Naptha soap and a wet brush on the inside of the garment

2. Wash with 1/2 cap detergent, 1/2 cap fabric softener & a cap of Maxima (a green disinfectant used in heavy duty cleaning)

posted by ashtabula to opelika at 2:24 PM on September 13, 2010

I don't know about tech shirts, but I will second tea tree Dr. Bromberg as having grody-sweat-cutting qualities. It was what I used on my bikram yoga mat.
posted by salvia at 6:47 PM on September 13, 2010

Put in in the freezer overnight. Then wash it.
posted by gus at 10:26 PM on September 13, 2010

Once, I saw a beautiful electron microscope image of a single thread from synthetic clothing fabric. It was an extruded shape, and had the cross-section shape of a five-point asterisk. In the ridges happy bacteria lived. (Their job is to make the smell.)

The task is, then, to make war on these bacteria. They are hiding in microscopic ridges in our delicate clothing from the future. I'm sure enzymes work, but definitely employ a good dose of ultraviolet radiation. Irresistible force will absolutely trash the little fuckers that are gentrifying your T-shirt armpit. Good luck acquiring an immunity to hostile radation, mr. prokaryote!

Sunlight contains UV radiation. Hang 'em out.
posted by krilli at 5:40 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

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