Keep your workout clothes, go-to leggings, and favorite athleisure-wear in tip-top shape by avoiding these common mistakes.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated February 06, 2019

You know how to do laundry; you might even dare call yourself a laundry novice, even if you’re not quite ready to go pro-level. But even the most seasoned laundry-doer may stumble into top laundry mistakes or struggle to decipher some laundry symbols, and any well-meaning clothes-washer may accidentally apply old laundry rules to new fabrics, like those of high-end workout clothes or the super-soft leggings you love to wear all weekend long.

Most workout clothes today are made with synthetics, a relatively new fabric, and properly cleaning new fabrics means following some new laundry rules. Sticking to old laundry rules for new fabrics can even damage them or shorten their lifespans, according to experts at HEX, a hypoallergenic laundry detergent designed to properly clean synthetics and other fabrics. (You can always stick to the old rules with your 100 percent cotton sheets and silk blouses.)

The expert laundry-doers at HEX shared laundry mistakes many people make with their synthetic workout clothes and fabrics—plus ways to fix them, to make sure those leggings will outlast your current Pilates fixation (and maybe even your next favorite workout).

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Washing workout clothes mistakes - washing machine
Credit: Katherine Fawssett/Getty Images

1 You’re using dryer sheets

Dryer sheets were made for an earlier era, when washing machines and fabrics were rougher—and sweat-wicking synthetics weren’t as common. Instead of dryer sheets, use dryer balls (which are more sustainable, anyway) and a detergent like HEX, which prevents static.

2 You’re using fabric softener on synthetic fabrics

Traditional fabric softeners can leave a film over your clothes, especially synthetics. Like dryer sheets, they were made for older fabrics, not the synthetics so many people wear today. Fabric softener residue can help lead to a lingering stink in the fabrics of towels and workout clothes; skip the softener to fix the problem.

3 You’re washing workout clothes with traditional detergent

Traditional detergents can clog synthetic fibers, instead of cleaning them, and mask odors from workouts or daily wear. Look for a detergent made to work on synthetics and use that, instead.

4 You’re adding too much laundry detergent

An excess of laundry detergent in the washing machine can leave a residue on fabrics, cause soap to accumulate in the washing machine, lead to mold, and even damage the machine. Stick to the recommended amount of detergent for the size of your load, even if it’s a particularly smelly batch.

5 You’re over-filling the dryer—and using high heat

Adding too many clothes to the dryer can add to dry time, and cranking up the heat to get everything dry can damage certain fabrics. (It can also shrink some items.) Try air-drying certain delicates, blouses, and workout clothes, and keep the heat on medium or low for the items that do go into the dryer. If it comes down to it, run two loads in the dryer, instead of one giant load.

6 You’re not cleaning the washing machine

Residue can build up in a washing machine’s lid, seals, and dispensers, leading to a funky smell. Use a scrub brush or cleaning cloth to clean it out, and stick to an anti-odor laundry detergent to keep the smell from coming back.

7 You’re adding fragrance beads to smelly laundry

Adding fragrance beads to fight a lingering stink in dirty clothes can just help mask the smell further, rather than fully cleaning the items; skip them.