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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing bad smells from gym clothes

By Dr. Laundry August 9, 2012

I workout often, and it seems some shirts have a permanent odor of sweat or mold. Will Clorox 2® help on my colored laundry?

The bleach active in Clorox2®, hydrogen peroxide, is a gentle bleach, making it safe for almost all washable colored items. However, it doesn’t meet EPA disinfecting requirements, and so it won’t kill the germs on your workout clothes like Clorox® Regular-Bleach. You may actually be able to use Clorox® Regular-Bleach to safely wash some of your workout clothes provided they are colorfast to bleach and don’t contain any spandex.  You’ll need to check the items with a quick bleachability test as follows:


  • Mix a test solution by diluting 2 tsp Clorox® Regular-Bleach in ¼ cup water.

  • Apply a drop to a hidden part of the item such as an inside hem, cuff, or seam. Wait one minute and then blot dry.

  • No color change means the item can be safely bleached.


For items that don’t pass the bleachability test, you can try the following techniques to at least reduce the germ count.

  • Always wash in the hottest water recommended on the item’s care label.

  • Pre-soak with Clorox2® before washing.  Dissolve 1 scoop of the powder in 2 gallons hot water; fully submerge the items for up to 8 hours or overnight.  Drain the soaking solution before washing.

  • Wash any items of particular concern separately from other items to avoid germ transfer.

  • Use the hottest dryer setting recommended on the care label, and dry items separately – or at least with some white towels so the items tumble properly in the dryer.

  • Periodically run a washer clean-out cycle with an empty washer and ¾ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach to be sure the clothes washer is disinfected and germs don’t transfer to other loads.