6 Shockingly Simple Ways to Make Your Gear Last Longer

Fitness gear is expensive, and the worse you treat these items, the faster they'll need to be replaced. You're a workout warrior, so a little wear and tear is bound to happen (especially with those items you use several times a week), but if you notice that you're not getting many miles out of your clothes, bags or other gear, it's possible that some bad habits might be the culprit.

Before you groan, know that you don't have to spend a lot of time caring for your favorite items to make them last longer—a few simple habits and swaps to your cleaning and storage routine can go a long way in keeping your favorite gear in great shape.

1. Use the Right Detergent

When it comes to activewear, not all detergents are created equal. Choosing the right cleaner for your favorite fitness clothing is step one in making your gear last longer. "Most people today don't realize that there's a right and wrong way to wash activewear. The traditional detergents we've relied on for decades weren't built for modern, synthetic fabrics," Drew Westervelt, founder and COO of HEX, explains. "That's why you'll see notes on the clothing care tag or website that instruct against using fabric softeners, bleach, dry cleaning and ironing."

Most of this clothing is made of synthetic fabrics, which is "essentially plastics," he says. The traditional detergent surfactants and enzyme blends were designed to be resistant to hard water and make cleaning easier. Our clothing and the materials used have evolved, though, and our cleaning methods should, too.

As you're looking for better laundry detergent, there's not one "right" option everyone should purchase. Instead, as you're weighing your options, consider one simple tip: "In most cases, high-tech fabrics are used to create activewear clothes, which tend to deteriorate when exposed to harsh chemicals. Therefore, pick out a mild and eco-friendly detergent that allows a gentle wash [and] doesn't contain harsh chemicals," the experts at CD One Price Cleaners write. As with finding nutritious foods, it’s all about knowing how to read the label.  

2. Get the Stink Out of Your Gym Bag and Yoga Mat

There are a few reasons why you might toss your gym bag: it's ripped, it's not big enough or—the worst offender of them all—you can't get the smell out. To handle the latter, Jean Reed, creator of the blog From Fork to Fitness suggests creating a "simple, chemical-free gym bag deodorizer." If you're new to DIY cleaners, follow Reed's directions:

Grab a two-ounce glass spray bottle and combine:
  • 20 drops of lavender essential oil
  • 20 drops of lemon essential oil
  • 20 drops of rosemary essential oil
  • Alcohol-free witch hazel. "Witch hazel is a natural astringent known for its antimicrobial properties, which makes it an ideal option for gym gear sanitizing," explains Reed. 
Use this DIY solution to keep your bag clean between uses and grab the bottle to keep other items such as your yoga mats and sneakers stink-free.

3. Get Out of Your Sweaty Clothes Quickly

Here's a fun fact: Our clothes are hotbeds for bacteria. As you might guess, this is especially true for athleisure. According to a 2017 article in Esquire, the synthetic fibers found in most performance gear are more likely to retain odors due to product and oil buildup within the fibers. Keeping your sweaty gym clothes on as you run errands or even lounge around the house means you'll likely end up with stinky shirts that will find their way to the trash.  

Hitting the showers or laundry room immediately after exercise allows your hard-earned sweat less time to wreak havoc on the fabric. If you can't wash them right after wearing, hang your clothes up to air dry before they get crumpled up in your laundry basket to prevent the germs from having more time to develop. Plus, by removing your sweat-soaked clothes in a prompt manner, you'll also be protecting yourself from a whole mess of potential health issues including skin rashes, athlete's foot or even staph.

4. Flip It and Reverse It

Perhaps the most common piece of advice those in the know share about eliminating stink from workout clothes is this: Wash your clothes inside out. The tip is one that seems so obvious when you really think of it, yet most people forget to take this crucial step. According to an article in The New York Times, sweat and dead skin cells rub off on the inside of your shirt, leggings, bras or socks. Taking an extra second to flip them inside out means your detergent will be hitting the source of the stench directly, rather than going through the front fibers.

5. Take Storage Seriously

It's easy to toss your gear in a damp basement or garage between uses, especially seasonal items that only get used a few months out of the year. Yet, proper storage is a must if you want your gear to live a long, happy life. "The drastic swings in temperature of those locations can negatively affect the equipment, especially if kept there for extended periods of time," explains Kelly Tenny of ZippBoxx.

This is especially important for specific items in your gear collection. Tenny continues, "With golf clubs, extreme temperature can affect the grips of the club. Heat can cause the grips to break down and deteriorate, and cold can dry them out causing cracking. The head of the golf club can become loose in extreme temperatures as well, thanks to expanding and contracting."

Skiers should also take care to properly store their expensive toy before storing them away for the summer months. Tenny recommends first taking the skis out of the bag you used for the season to avoid accumulated moisture inside, which could rust the edges of your skis. "A dry, cool place not in direct sunlight is the best environment to store skis," says Tenny.

6. Respect Your Gear

The cardinal rule here is to treat your workout gear the way you treat any other expensive item you own: with respect.

"Respecting the gear covers a lot of areas, from not walking on the [yoga] mat with dirty shoes to not walking on workout ropes, as you prolong the life by not walking on them. If you have a home gym, keeping it set up and clean is huge," Michael Fox, a professional equipment manager, explains.

This goes for all your workout gear, from your weightlifting gloves to the dumbbells you have stacked in your closet. "The discipline you show by stacking the weights, putting the balls away, oiling what needs to be oiled and keeping additional moisture away gives you an additional responsibility that translates into better discipline for your workout," Fox says.

Take stock of all your gear and how it's being stored. Can you create better organization in your closet? Can you find a corner in your spare room to stack the items in an organized and gentle fashion? Even laid neatly under the bed is better than tossing everything into a crate in your garage. These small adjustments can add up to big money being saved in the long run.