How To Clean Sweaty Bikram Clothes


When I first started doing Bikram yoga a couple of years ago, I was amazed at how much I could sweat. I remember the first time I noticed that my shins were sweating, and being simultaneously scared and amused. Before that moment, I thought sweat was pretty much confined to armpits, backs, and foreheads. What a surprise for me to see it coming from everywhere, soaking through my clothes and towel. Walking home from class, sweat dripping with every step, I don’t think I had ever appreciated the lovely Chicago late summer breeze so much.

As time went by, I got used to sweating, and grew to love it. I went to a pretty strict studio, and wasn’t allowed to wipe or scratch if sweat was tickling me somewhere. Part of practice is the stillness, and true stillness means learning to breathe through small discomforts, just let them go. I do pretty well at this part of class, actually. I’ve gotten pretty good at letting things go, and this has translated into my everyday life, as well.

Except when it comes to stinky yoga clothes!

I learned early on that sweaty yoga clothes and towels do not behave as normal laundry does. It stinks, it grows stuff, it’s the height of gross. You think you have it clean, then all of a sudden you catch a whiff of wtf-is-embedded-in-my-clothes?!?!? It drives me crazy. It essentially ruined my stillness for some time before I finally learned how to handle it efficiently. It’s been a while since I was a complete headcase when it came to getting my sweaty clothes clean, but I can still remember the frenzy. If you’ve never soaked through everything you’re wearing, PLUS a thick towel, put them in a plastic grocery bag to get them home, then had to actually empty the bag out in the sink to get rid of excess moisture, you’re not going to get the ‘crazy’ that comes along with doing truly sweaty laundry. It was a relief to get past that point and on with the show.

Lately at my new studio, however, I’ve overheard a number of people talking about battling sweat smells and stains in yoga clothes. I’ve been sharing my not-so-secret secret with as many people as possible, but it seemed like a good idea to just write a blog post about my method. This is a very simple and economical fix, too. No need for expensive sports detergents or any crazy multi-step programs – just a couple of additions to your typical laundry routine will do you a world of good.

You’ll need:


1. Laundry Detergent – whatever you’d like to use. I’ve been using All with Oxi-Active, because it’s what The Man brought home after his last grocery expedition. I’d have preferred Vaska (I’m crazy about lavender, and being biodegradable doesn’t hurt), but being out of a job soon, it’s best to conserve cash for a little while. Speaking of, if you can stand visiting their page, those crazy Duggars have a DIY liquid laundry detergent recipe that looks like it might be a good sweat-fighter, too.

Click through to learn more about using Borax in your home.

2. Borax (1/2 cup) – I’ve recently discovered that not many of my friends had heard of this miracle product. Borax is actually a mineral, with the largest commercial mines being in California and Turkey. It comes in a box, and can be found in the laundry section in most larger grocery stores, as well as box stores like Walmart and Target, and online at Amazon. It’s normally in the section with the fabric softeners and ‘extras,’ not with the detergents, themselves. It’s cheap, at around $4 for a normal-sized box ($11 for a larger version), and can be used to clean just about anything. It’s also a lot safer than many typical household cleaners, so I’ve heard of people using Borax and vinegar as exclusive household cleaning products in homes with new babies or allergy sufferers.

White Vinegar

3. White Vinegar (1/2 cup to 1 cup) – Oh yeah. This stuff is another miracle worker, and don’t worry – your clothes will not smell tangy when you’re through. It took a few loads of laundry for me to convince The Man that using vinegar could be beneficial to our clothing, but it does wonders to soften clothes and help kill off any remaining bacteria that are holding on to those gooey Bikram smells. Best of all, it’s cheap, cheap, cheap, and you don’t need to buy a brand name vinegar to get the job done right. Click through the image for more tips on using vinegar in your home.

The best part of all of these items is that they can be used in either a top loading or front loading washer. If you’re using a conventional washing machine – add the Borax and vinegar when you add the detergent, all at the same time. When we had a conventional machine, I would start filling the machine, give it a minute to get an inch or two of water, then add the detergent, 1/2 cup of Borax, and between 1/2 cup and 1 cup of vinegar, drop the top and let a little more water flow in and mix things up before adding the clothes. If you’re using a front loading (HE) machine – put the detergent in the detergent cup, then add in the 1/2 cup of Borax right on top of that, and put the vinegar in the cup where the fabric softener is supposed to go.

Typically, I try to throw my clothes and towel in the wash as soon as I get home, and then I wash them with cold water and the above products. If I’ve had to let my clothes wait for a few hours or even until the next day, I rinse them in the sink, then let them dry on a towel rack or other spot, and put them in the laundry with the new batch of sweaty gear the next day. When it’s been a day or more, I wash my laundry with warm water, unless something smells particularly ripe, in which case I go ahead and use hot. I also find that towels sometimes still end up getting moldy, in which case I end up double washing them, with a soak, in hot water, and add up to a cup of Borax and put some vinegar straight on the moldy spot in the towel before throwing it in the wash.

Do you use another method to clean your dirty yoga gear? Any secrets, tips or tricks to share? Please do so we can all benefit!

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you for this post. As I’m new to Bikram, I’ve only just started to notice that my yoga clothes still smell sweaty even after they’re washed and dried. Gonna try your recipe!

    1. Anna says:

      No problem – let me know if it works out for you, or if you end up experimenting and find another method you prefer. The other important thing is to make sure you dry everything thoroughly; I’ve actually started keeping a small container of DampRid in my linen closet to soak any excess moisture up out of the air, just to make sure no mold is growing in my towels. That’s just a side effect of living somewhere with such high humidity, though – most people don’t have to worry that much.

  2. Reblogged this on The Kat & the Falling Leaves and commented:
    For those who practice Bikram Yoga – excellent article!

    1. Anna says:

      Wow, thanks! So awesome of you. I’m always looking for alternate methods, too, so if you or any readers find other surefire ways to kill the Bikram stink, let me know.

  3. Thanks for reminding me about Borax. Blast from the past. My mom used to use that for cleaning. I thought it was an Ajax equivalent but sounds like its more natural. I do use vinegar from time to time and it works great. I sweat buckets (as in serious buckets) and practice every day or close to it (including frequent doubles). I havent had too much of a problem with stink and laundry issues because I hand wash my gaia thirsty towel and jogging shorts in warm water and either vinegar or little detergent as soon as I get home. Sometimes it sits in my car all day if I do an AM class before work but as long as I don’t forget about it, it’s not too bad. I wring my towel out in the shower after each class to get rid of as much water as possible before I leave studio. I put my yoga gear in the laundry when I do it every week or two. Smell or other issues haven’t really arisen. You mention walking home soaking wet from a studio in Chicago. I’m guessing Wicker Park with no showers? Haven’t been there but I practice in Oak Park and have about the various Chicago studios. Not having a shower after class would be a real adjustment. Sometimes I think I’m as addicted to the cold shower (think cold mountain stream) as I am the Hot Room itself.

    1. Anna says:

      I love Borax! It’s great for so many household uses. Thanks for all of the great insights into your laundry process; as silly as it may sound, laundry is one of those things that all of us do a little differently, and it’s always great to get some ideas of what to try next. I practiced on Clark Street at Bikram Yoga Chicago, and also later at Bikram Yoga Andersonville. Loved them both, but never did feel good about using the locker room showers, just to go home and take another shower with all of my girly soaps & shampoos, and carrying them with me was just too much of a hassle (lazy, lazy, lazy).

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this post! This totally worked!! Yah!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much. I actually just threw out 1 pair of pants because the stink was so bad even after multiple washes. I have used vinegar before but will add Borax!

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