Tips to Wash Smelly Workout Clothes & Mesh Laundry Bag Tutorial

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I have an active family of five. I power walk five days a week. My husband works out five days a week. My husband and son both play roller hockey, which means practices and games. My daughters prefer Pilates for their workout routines. It’s great for our health that we’re all active, it’s rewarding and even fun, but it also means that we have lots of smelly workout clothes each week. Ugh. I’m a bit of a clean freak (or at least that’s what my family and friends tell me, I think it’s normal clean-ness), so finding tips that really work to wash smelly workout clothes has been a mission of mine. I’ve found several tips that work well for us and a key tip involves my mesh laundry bag tutorial. Trust me, it’s an easy tutorial that really does make a difference. 

black shelving unit with hockey equipment on every shelf and mesh laundry bag hanging on it

Thank goodness there’s no smell-a-vision involved in blogging, because our athletic clothes are smelly, smelllll-yyyy. If you have a hockey player or have ever been in a hockey locker room, you know it’s the stinkiest of the stinky sports. But let me be clear, our clothes are smelly before I follow these tips to wash smelly workout clothes. They don’t smell after they’ve been washed. And you know that not everyone can say that about their stinky workout clothes

Tips to Wash Smelly Workout Clothes

hockey jerseys in black mesh laundry bag with green fabric rim

Keep workout clothes in a mesh bag in your locker or gym bag.  It’s important to let your workout clothes air out. Your gym clothes need to have air circulate through them so they can dry and minimize or prevent that stinky workout smell. I made personal travel-sized mesh laundry bags for each family member to put their workout and hockey uniform items in after a game, practice or trip to the gym. We simply place our clothes in the travel-sized mesh bag and hang it in our locker or place it in our gym bag. I share my easy-to-make mesh laundry bag tutorial below

close up of hockey equipment on black shelf

Hang clothes to dry at home.   As soon as you get home take your smelly workout clothes out of your travel mesh laundry bag, gym bag (or hockey bag) and hang them to dry. I set up a sports stuff shelf in our garage with hooks to make it easy to hang items to completely dry. 

green and black mesh laundry bag hanging on black shelf with hockey equipment

Use a mesh laundry bag.  I have a jumbo-sized mesh laundry bag hanging on our shelf so that we can place clothes that are already dry (but a still a bit ripe) in the mesh bag. This allows air to continue to circulate around the clothes until I get a chance to run a load (or two or three) of laundry with the workout clothes. I don’t want those stinky clothes in the house or in the hamper with my other clothes until they’ve been washed and are fresh and clean again.

Turn clothes inside out to wash.  Teach your family to turn the workout clothes inside out when they place them in the mesh laundry bag and be sure to turn them inside out prior to washing. This simple step makes sure that the fabric with the most oils and sweat is exposed to the most water and laundry detergent. 

Use a laundry detergent designed to tackle body oils and sweat.   It’s important to use a laundry detergent designed to work on the body oils and sweat in your workout clothes. Did you know that Wisk detergent was the first liquid laundry detergent ever and it is turning 60 this year?  

pile of dirty clothes with red laundry bottle on top

Wisk Deep Clean® laundry detergent contains a patented blend of Micro-Cleansers® that seek out and attack hidden body oils and sweat trapped in your clothes and that includes in your smelly workout clothes.  In an average load of laundry, the ratio of hidden body oils and sweat to visible stains is 20 to 1!  Those body oils and sweat are the #1 soil issue in your mesh laundry bag and often left behind by other detergents*. (*Compared to the leading variant of the top three liquid value brands of detergent.)  I chose Wisk Deep Clean® High Efficiency because it has the same powerful deep cleaning and is specially designed for my high efficiency machine. You can also find Wisk Deep Clean®  on Amazon.   

Use the recommended amount of laundry detergent.  Be sure to read the directions for your detergent and follow the directions for use exactly as they are listed on the packaging. It’s tempting to use extra detergent with workout clothes but that extra detergent can build up on clothes and actually encourage the growth of mildew and fungus on your clothes.

Don’t use fabric softener. Fabric softeners can trap odors in your workout clothes and can also damage the stretchy fabrics and performance fabrics often used in workout clothes. 

Don’t overload the washer capacity.   If you have lots of workout clothes to wash like I do each week, it’s tempting to shove them all into one load. It’s best not to overload your machine’s capacity, though. You want to give your workout clothes the room they need to agitate and get nice and clean in the washer.  

Soak workout clothes before washing.  If you have particularly smelly workout clothes, you can soak them for about a half an hour in a tub of cold water and 1/2 cup vinegar before you wash them. 

Air dry or low heat dry.   Hang your now freshly washed workout clothes outside to air dry in the sun or use lower heat in the dryer. 

Mesh Laundry Bag Tutorial 

You can make a personal travel-sized mesh laundry bag and a larger sized laundry bag in less than an hour. The tutorial is easy to do and really does make a difference when you wash smelly workout clothes so that you end up with fresh, clean workout clothes. 


2 1/2 yards of mesh fabric – It’s only about $1.25 a yard.

black mesh fabric and green fabric fat quarter on white table

1 Fat Quarter of Fabric – You can find fat quarters (sold for quilting) at Walmart or a fabric store. They run about $1 – $2. I chose a fabric to coordinate with my family’s favorite sports team. 

Cut the mesh 11 inches by 18 inches (folded in half already) for the small travel bag and 25 inches by 40 inches (folded in half) for the larger laundry bag. 

mesh sewn into bag laying on white wood table

Fold the mesh so that you will only have side seams. This helps make the bottom of the bag stronger to hold heavy loads of laundry. Sew your seams about 1/4 inch from the side. I sewed each seam three times to reinforce the seam so my mesh laundry bags will hold up to heavy use. 

green fabric cut into strips with scissors

Cut your fat quarter into four equal strips. Sew the strips together end to end with 1/4 inch seams. 

1. Fold 1/2 inches in on each side of the strip of fabric. Press these edges down.

2. Fold the strip in half and pin it to the top the mesh laundry bag. Be careful to line the edges of the fabric band up evenly since you can see uneven edges through the mesh. Sew two seams; one 1/4 inches from the top edge and the second 1/4 inches from the bottom edge of the fabric band. Leave the joining edge open for the next step.

3. Thread cording through the casing created for a personal travel-sized mesh laundry bag. 

collage of steps to sew mesh laundry bag

4. Add a loop the fabric to hang the full-sized mesh laundry bag. I prefer the loop for the large mesh laundry bag because the mouth of the bag will hang open to make it easy for your family to toss dirty workout clothes in the laundry bag. 

You can pick up your detergent from Walmart and if your store has a fabric department, you can pick up the supplies to make your own mesh laundry bag. I found Wisk Deep Clean® on the laundry aisle in the cleaning supplies area of my Walmart store.

Now that I follow these tips to wash smelly workout clothes, I’d be happy if blogging had smell-a-vision because my stinky gym clothes are now fresh and clean. Join my family and Don’t Just Wash It, Wisk It! Check out these great #Wisk60 ideas for innovative laundry ideas. 

black shelving unit with hockey equipment lined up on each shelf

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  1. Great tips. I really like the one about turning your clothes inside out when washing – I wish I would have thought of that! I do hand most of our clothes out to dry, I like the way they smell and I especially like the way the sun bleaches our whites naturally.

  2. I know this is an issue for “girl” sports – My tennis and yoga outfits can be a challenge for sweat stains and odors. I don’t envy you having a hockey player. One of my dorm mates played hockey and he had to keep is gear out in the stairwell. It was that bad!

  3. I love the mesh bag! That would be so handy for anyone’s gym bag. I also love that you have taught your kids to turn their clothing inside out. I’m still working on that.

  4. All this time I have been yelling at my kids to turn their clothes right-side out, it never occurred to me that the detergent and water was getting to the sweat etc. better this way. The mesh laundry bag is brilliant. Nothing is worse than emptying a hamper that has sweaty, stinky workout clothes that have been getting smellier each day at the bottom of the hamper.

    1. I know your family is very active, too, Corinne. The mesh bag and turning clothes inside out (I “yell” at my family for the other clothes staying right side out šŸ™‚ ) will be a big help.

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