Well, it is that time of year again, we are all dusting off our gym kit after the Christmas period’s overindulgence! Getting out and about is really important, not only for our physical health but also for our mental health.
There are so many challenges and uncertainties in everyone's lives at the moment, so adding some exercise (high or low intensity, you choose!) into your routine will help clear your mind and make you feel good.
Not sure how to clean and care for your activewear afterwards? We’re here to help! To make sure your activewear is worth the investment and make it last over time, read on for our full guide on how to care for your kit, from the comfort of your own home.
What is activewear made from?
Workout gear is often made from blended synthetic materials and needs a different style of laundering than most of your other clothes. Activewear pieces are made from fabrics that are hard-working, durable, sweat-wicking, lightweight and breathable - essentially, everything you want when you're working out or being active.
The majority of your standard gym kit (think leggings, vests etc) will be made from Polyester, Lycra, Nylon, Supplex or Dri-Fit. These are the most common and run of the mill activewear fabrics that have been used traditionally by brands for years. However, the tides are turning to more natural fibres, or fibres made from regenerated materials or recycled plastics that would otherwise be left in the landfill or dumped into the ocean.
Activewear and the environment
Because most activewear is made from synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon, which are derived from oil, it brings about major problems for the environment.
These fabrics take quite a lot of energy to manufacture and require hazardous chemicals during the creation process, which makes them damaging to those working in the manufacturing supply chain and to the planet. Down the line, synthetic fibres also take a long while to break down and sadly, can sit in landfill for up to 200 years to decompose.
However, the good news is that an increasing number of companies are expanding research into more sustainable fabrics for their activewear lines (scroll down to find a selection of our favourite sustainable activewear brands below!). This often takes the form of recycled synthetic materials, such as plastic bottles that would otherwise be left to landfill or dumped in the ocean.
Another step you can take to reduce your individual impact is to make sure you keep your activewear pieces for a long time: as for any piece of clothing you have, we believe in investing in quality pieces and prolonging their life cycle, which starts with proper aftercare.
How often to wash activewear
We figured this would probably be the first question you have and the answer is as you’d expect: every time after working out. Warm, moist fabrics are a breeding ground for bacteria to grow and flourish - not to mention they smell quite bad! Ever left your gym kit or a swimsuit at the bottom of a bag by accident? If you have, you’ll know about it!
So it’s best to get your kit washed as quickly as possible after working out, to kill the bacteria, before it has an opportunity to get embedded in your clothes.
How to wash activewear
To start with, if you have a particularly deep-set stain, we always recommend pre-spotting your garment first, using the BLANC stain remover bar to lift off the stain without damaging your activewear.
If your whole garment is particularly sweaty or soiled, soaking them first is a good place to start. You can soak your kit in 4 parts water and 1 part white distilled vinegar to help break down the smell and soiling. Soak for half an hour, rinse with cool water and leave to air dry.
You can then wash your garments in the washing machine. Choose a gentle, cold and short setting - as hot water will agitate the fibres of your garment, which can cause damage and reduce the longevity of your activewear. It is still wise to separate your activewear into lights and darks here as colours can still run.
A few key things to remember when washing:
- Zip up and turn inside out! When you exercise, the majority of bacteria builds up on the inside, rather the outside of your activewear. By remembering to turn your clothes inside out and closing up any fastenings/ zippers, it stops snagging and tearing on any other items in the wash and helps to keep the colours more vibrant.
- For any stubborn smells, you can run your washing machine's rinse cycle with half-cup of white vinegar. This helps to break down any bacteria and neautralise bad odours.
- Avoid fabric softeners. Whilst it might work wonders on your everyday clothes, it can be detrimental to your activewear and damage its moisture absorbing qualities.
How much detergent to use
It may be tempting to pour in more detergent than usual for your gym kit, but overdoing it with the detergent can build up in the clothing fibres and creates the perfect environment for bacteria to breed. Instead, opt for a specialised detergent - we recommend the Tangent GC Sportswear Detergent - it has odour control and is specially formulated to care for workout garments.
What about microplastics?
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic/fibres that get released into the waterways every time you wash your clothes, and activewear can, unfortunately, be a prime culprit for these. When you wash your gym kits (especially those of the synthetic variety), microplastics come away from your clothes and are released into the waterways - which is damaging to both the marine life and our own personal health. Using a GUPPYFRIEND Washing Bag in your washing machine is a simple yet efficient way to stop the microplastics from entering the waterways.
How to dry activewear
The great news here is that you shouldn't have to worry about creasing and drooping on the garments when drying! It is wise to air dry your activewear on a clothes horse inside. The tumble dryer isn’t advisable here, and as activewear is created to wick away moisture, your kit shouldn’t take long to dry inside, on a clothes horse.
Some additional drying guidelines are:
- Try and keep your garments away from heaters and direct sunlight - heat sources can degrade, damage and even melt the fibres.
- For the same reason, do not iron your gym kit!
BLANC's edit of the best sustainable activewear
To help keep you motivated to stay fit and healthy, without compromising on the environment, here is a list of our favourite brands get active in!
A small, sustainable activewear brand, based in London, to support. Their pieces are created from ECONYL, “a fibre made from recycled fishing nets and other waste that would otherwise be discarded into oceans and landfills.” Clean, sleek and minimal styles perfect for pilates and yoga.
Organic Basics have been making waves on social media recently and for a very good reason - their clothing is made ethically in Europe, where they create built to last clothing by investing in high-quality workmanship and fabrics. They put sustainability at the core of everything that they do and even have a ‘low impact’ version of their website - genius!
For a minimalist and chic activewear design, SILOU is a favourite of BLANC’s. They create sustainable and beautifully designed products. SILOU’s ethos is very akin to ours and their collections are well worth taking a look at - perfect kit for barre, pilates and hiking.
Take a look here for all sorts of activewear, from hiking gear to socks! Specialising in products made from ‘super soft bamboo’, this company started with just 6 employees in 2006 and growing to a whopping 40 in 2020, it’s great to see this sustainable brand expanding.
Made with bamboo yarn, Boody’s products are hypoallergenic, super soft and highly breathable. This company, which was born in Australia, also walks the talk with their eco-accreditations. Look here for simple, clean activewear and basics.