You feel you can throw anything at your body when you’re working out in your high-performance sportswear and compression garments, but that doesn’t mean you can treat your clothing the same way. The irony is that the hardest-working clothes are actually very delicate, but in the end, they’re just like your body – if you give them the right care, you can make them last longer, perform better and continue to look good.

The first thing to do is get your wet, sweaty gear out of your bag – it’s the torture chamber for sportswear. Sweat (and chlorine, too if you’ve been in a pool) will accelerate the degeneration of elastane, the part of lycra that gives the material its stretch, plus it’s an important component of sports bras. Ladies, that means washing your bra every time it gets sweat-soaked (air-drying won’t cut it!), paying special attention to the bands of the bra.

The next common mistake people make is not reading the label on the clothes – or they do, but they treat the instructions with all the doubt and suspicion usually reserved for pop-up news items on Facebook. All these instructions have very good reasons behind them. Let’s go through them and a few extra tips that will help keep your gear fit and healthy.


This helps preserve the colour and any markings on the clothes, such as logos and reflective markings. It also means the fabric that’s been against your skin gets a good wash so that dead skin cells don’t clog the cloth’s fibres (especially in compression gear, where the weave is very fine).


We know – hand-washing is a pain and it’s hard to believe the cold water will get rid of any pong. However, the ‘hand wash’ tag is there because of the delicate nature of the fabric or the type of treatment that has been applied to the fabric (e.g. fabric cooling technology or SPF treatments). In both cases, the clothes don’t handle the friction against your other clothes when they’re being tossed around inside a washing machine. If you really want to use your washing machine, wash your workout gear all together in cold water using the delicates cycle, or even better, put your training clothes in a lingerie or delicates bag before putting them in the machine.


Hot water can break down fabric fibres, especially elastane, which gives clothes their stretch. It also fades colour. And what about that pong?


The ‘no softener’ rule on many labels is there because it can get in between the fibres of fabrics that are supposed to be breathable to wick sweat away and dissipate odours. Go easy on the detergent and soap, too, because it can build up on your clothes to trap in oils and skin cells, which can cause fungal growth such as mildew. Always rinse your clothes really well and NEVER use bleach.


Tumble drying can cause shrinkage and static in sensitive high-performance workout gear, plus it’s a death sentence to compression gear. The dryer wrecks the elastane, which tends to degrade faster than the polyester and nylon fibres that are also in the weave. Even direct sunlight can be too much, plus this also causes colour to fade. Wherever possible, dry your workout gear in the shade where there’s some wind or good air circulation – fresh air acts as a good deodoriser. Dry your gear flat if you can and avoid using pegs on compression clothing and sports bras – you’ll wreck the elastane and the marks will be permanent.


Performance fabrics don’t need to encounter the burn of a hot iron - they actually don’t need it because, in most cases, performance fabrics don’t crease. Ironing can cause burning or melting of fabric and its embellishments, such as screen-printed branding. Ironing is a quick way to ruin your costly gear.