Taking care of your cycling clothes shouldn’t necessarily consume your time, but it does require some due attention to protect your investment.
Sticking with a few easy-to-follow guidelines will help you avoid potential problems with retained odors or with damaging the technical synthetic materials.
Here’s a few tips we’ve come up with:
1. Don’t Let Your Stuff Sit Around Wet
We’ve all done it…come home from a ride, dripping with sweat and peel off our kit and toss it in the hamper. A day or two later when it’s time to do laundry, guess what’s still wet and soaking in its own stink? That’s right: your kit!
Washing your gear right away means you won’t allow odor-causing bacteria to build up, embedding deeply into the synthetic material where it may never actually get out again.
2. Don’t Re-Wear Your Bike Clothes
All of us have been guilty of this one, at least once, but re-wearing your kit, even after a short ride is never a good idea. Odor is caused by bacteria, which is still going to be present, even if the perspiration you put out was mostly evaporated as you rode. When you re-wear your gear you are allowing odors to settle and thoroughly embed into the material, which means the next time around you might be…well…unpleasant to be around.
Even more concerning is that wearing the same pair of shorts a couple of days in a row means the chamois will be more prone to causing rashes and chafing thanks to the bacteria built up there.
3. Always Use Detergents Free from Dyes, Perfumes or Softeners
Most of the time you can get by with basic detergent, but if you have problems with lingering stink, there are other options out there. Many cyclists report success with a product called Nathan Power Wash in removing odors that hadn’t come out with standard detergents. You can find it online or in many bike shops. But, we highly recommend that you stick with gentle detergents since most of those developed with ‘sports’ in mind are meant to handle ground-in dirt and grass stains (baseball or football) and are too harsh for cycling apparel.
Always stay away from detergents with dyes, perfumes and softeners. Residue from fancy soaps or fabric softeners will clog up the works, keeping high-performance fabrics, meant to channel moisture away from your skin, from doing their job.
4. Stop Washing at High Temperatures
We’ve all succumbed to the notion that the hotter the water, the better, especially when attempting to achieve better hygiene. The fact is, this is not the case with cycling or hi-tech athletic apparel. It can actually do just the opposite and drastically alter and compromise the lifetime of the apparel.
Elastic Interface®, the company that provides our chamois recommends washing cycling shorts at 100° F, a moderate temperature more than sufficient to ensure the non proliferation of bacteria. If you use gentle bleach-free detergents you can kill bacteria at even lower temperatures.
Washing at a moderate or even cold temperatures prevents damage to the fabrics and foams which Elastic Interface has treated with bacteriostatic properties, which help maintain the physiological bacterial colonies resident on the skin. It’s these colonies that are extremely important for the normal skin function. So, when it comes to cycling apparel, high temperature washing does not add benefit.
5. Getting Shorts (and Jerseys) Ready for the Wash
Even before you put your bike shorts in the washer, there are things you can do to make the cleaning more effective.
1. Always turn the shorts inside out, and put a pre-wash agent directly on the chamois and let it soak in to remove stains and odors. This can be either detergent or a special stain-fighting product.
2. If you have bib shorts, after you do the previous step, always place them into a small mesh bag. This will keep the suspender straps from getting wrapped around the agitator of your top-load washer, which can stretch and damage the seams and shred the material.
3. Always make sure to zip zippers and close hook-and-loop fasteners before washing, both can chew up clothes faster than skidding on loose gravel. Also, turn screenprinted or sublimated clothing inside out to protect the graphics. Before you wash, sort your clothes–your cycling gear shouldn’t be mashed in with your hard-tumbling jeans or a mess of heavy towels. They’re “delicates” and should be treated as such. Make sure to use the delicate cycle on your washing machine.
4. Don’t forget to check your pockets. Jells and energy snacks can make for a serious mess and ruin a really nice jersey.
And…NEVER wash any of your athletic apparel with anything that has Velcro. Velcro, like those loose zippers or fasteners, will quickly shred and destroy the delicate fabrics in your jersey, bibs or shorts.
6. Don’t Use the Dryer
Once you’re done with the wash, you should always hang your cycling clothes or technical apparel to air dry. Many types of cycling-specific fabrics, from wool to synthetics, will not do well in the dryer. Wool can shrink and the synthetic in the legs or waist of your shorts or bibs can become damaged. Even low temperatures in the dryer may break down the integrity of the garment and its technical components over time.
Follow these guidelines and you should be able to get lots of miles and continued high-performance from your technical cycling apparel for years to come. And, of course, these are general care statements, so make sure to check individual tags on your garments as some technical products/fabrics may have some different care guidelines for reasons specific to that item.