Wondering if you need to be washing sweatpants after every use? Our handy guide explores when re-wearing kit is okay – and when it’s time to do some laundry.

The best sweatpants are the bottom half clothing of choice for most people’s weight-based gym workouts and even cardio-based sessions for some. But while the washing rules are quite straightforward for tops and vests (a washing cycle between each wear), things get a little bit fuzzy from the hips down. This is particularly true when your training has been focused on your upper body. You might be left asking: do I need to wash my sweatpants after every use?

The definitive answer on whether to wash or re-wear is based on a number of different influences – from what you do with your workout clothing post-gym to individual factors such as how much you sweat.

Below, we’ve broken down the situations that would determine whether you should wash sweatpants after every use. Ultimately though, it’s important to wash workout clothes regularly. This is because there are risks for not doing so – and not just offending other gym-goers with your own, sweet brand of body odour. The sweat that is absorbed into your workout clothes includes bacteria that it has mixed with on the skin’s surface.

Over time and given the right (warm and damp) environment, this bacteria can multiply. If worn again (and again), it could increase the risk of skin conditions and irritations like acne and yeast infections.

Should you wash sweatpants after every use?

Post-workout routine for sweatpants

What you do with your sweatpants as soon as you’ve finished your workout can help minimise the amount of sweat-based bacteria, and therefore the chances of being able to squeeze out a second wear.

If they’re shoved in a gym bag or to the bottom of a washing basket straight away, those damp patches won’t have the opportunity to dry out and wick away. This makes re-wearing a no-no. In these cases, you should be washing your sweatpants after every use. To give them the best shot at being re-wearable, it’s best to air dry them on a washing line. Here, the sun’s rays will not only dry them but also minimise the bacteria’s growth thanks to bacteria-killing UV rays.

Consider the fabric type and fit

It’s possible to minimise the amount of sweat created in the first place by choosing a sweatpant that is fit for the activity at hand. A moisture-wicking, tight-fitting pair will certainly keep you cool during your workout. However, its synthetic fabric is likely to hold on to bacteria more than a natural fibre like cotton.

If you don’t want to wash your sweatpants and need them to be wearable multiple times above all else, then look for a material like Merino wool. Not only does this have natural sweat-wicking properties but it also absorbs and locks away body odours during wear.

How sweaty was your workout?

Finally, as we’ve established, the answer to whether or not you should wash your sweatpants after every use will be based predominantly on the amount you sweat. This can depend on the exercise. For example, a cardio session is likely to get the heart pumping and legs sweating more than an upper-body weights workout. However, it will also be based on you as an individual.

If you tend to stay dry as a bone, a light airing should leave your sweatpants only slightly soiled. However, if you turn into a hot mess as soon as you step into a gym, you should probably be washing your sweatpants after every use. This will remove any built-up bacteria.

Top tips for re-wearing workout gear:

Not everyone can afford (or wants!) a wardrobe full of activewear to have something different to wear each day. Plus, not everyone does washing every day either – especially if you live by yourself! Here are some tips for health and hygiene if you re-wear your workout gear:

  • Take it off as soon as you’re finished exercising and hang it out to dry, preferably somewhere sunny. This will reduce the growth of bacteria.
  • If you’ve tried to dry your clothes and they’re still damp, either from sweat or high humidity, it’s definitely time for a wash.
  • Opt for natural fabrics like cotton.
  • Opt for looser fitting clothes such as baggy tops and jogger shorts rather than tight-fitting leggings, lycra shorts and singlets. These will allow more airflow and reduce bacteria.
  • If your sweaty clothes were left in a bag where bacteria can thrive for a long time after your workout, wash them.
  • If your clothes smell after exercise, wash them. They will still smell even if you hang them out to dry!
  • If you don’t want to wash sweatpants or other kit after every use, it’s best to avoid re-wearing exercise clothes more than once.