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How To Properly Wash Your Cycling Shorts

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If you’re a regular cyclist, you know that cycling clothing is a complex combination of cutting-edge technology, carefully designed to improve comfort and performance. As a dedicated athlete, you’ve invested time and money in selecting the right cycling wardrobe. However, by the end of your ride, you also know that your cutting-edge technology wardrobe is ready for the wash. 

Here’s how to properly wash your bike shorts:

  1. Prep your cycling clothes before washing. 
  2. Wash your cycling clothes immediately after your ride.
  3. Keep to a frequent wash schedule.
  4. Use a laundry bag if using a top-loading washing machine. 
  5. Use cold water for your wash. 
  6. Use less detergent
  7. Avoid Bleach and Fabric Softeners
  8. Use the extra rinse cycle.
  9. Drying your cycling gear.
  10. Know which items need special care. 
  11. Hand wash your cycling gear.
  12. Read the tag!

Athletic gear is designed with users in mind. Taking proper care of your equipment isn’t complicated or expensive, and everything you need is already in your laundry room.  Keep reading to discover the most effective ways to maintain your bike shorts, as well as a few things to avoid when doing your wash. 

1. Prep Your Cycling Clothes Before Washing

In order to keep your gear in good repair and adequately serving your ride, there are a few things you can do before you even take them to the wash. 

One of the biggest elements that cause wear and tear of cycling gear is the abrasion that happens in the wash. Flipping your gear inside out will protect the carefully designed fabric of your gear. 

Zipper teeth, Velcro, and other such components of your cycling gear cause abrasion and can catch during the cycle, which will cause the fabric to pull and stretch.

This risk is avoided by turning the items inside out so that the risky components are inside. Make sure zippers are zipped up and any snaps or Velcro are locked before flipping the whole garment inside out and throwing it in. 

Rinsing your gear before it goes into the wash also helps to keep it clean and functional. If you load your cycling clothes into the machine still covered in dirt and grime from a ride, those stains will grind into the material rather than being washed out. 

Don’t forget to check any pouches or pockets in your bike shorts before washing. Running food, gels, or other forgotten items in the pockets can cause disaster for your gear in the wash.

A simple rinse with water or using a standard laundry stain remover before putting your load into the machine can be the difference between grungy stains and pristine, tour-ready gear. 

Most cycling gear will have specific washing instructions included on the tag. Make sure to check the tag before washing in case your cycling gear has any brand-specific washing requirements.

2. Wash Your Cycling Clothes Immediately After Your Ride

The most important step you can take to keep your gear clean and fresh for your rides is washing it right away. Anyone who has spent time around athletic gear knows the distinct scent of sweat that has gotten into the fabric.

If your cycling gear is tossed into a pile and left for a few days after your ride, the fabric never gets a chance to dry out. The damp material becomes a petri dish for bacteria growth, and you are left with cycling gear that smells like a high school locker room no matter how much you wash. 

But it’s okay (with some precautions) to include your cycling clothes with your load of regular laundry. This is helpful because, instead of letting the bacteria cultivate while you build up enough dirty laundry for a cycling gear load, you can just toss it in right away.

Most cycling shorts and gear are made of synthetics, which means they’re colorfast. Still, it’s advisable to wash your cycling gear with similarly colored items to avoid color bleeding in the wash. 

3. Keep to a Frequent Wash Schedule

As previously mentioned, making sure your cycling gear doesn’t have the time to sit in a damp pile is essential to keeping it fresh and clean. 

It’s also important to have a regular schedule for how and when you wash your gear to prevent accidental lapses that can permanently stain or damage your gear.

Timing your ride and your laundry schedule so that your gear goes straight from your body into its maintenance routine is the easiest way to keep your gear in top condition for the longest possible time. 

It’s also recommended that cyclists ought to machine wash their bike shorts and other gear rather than hand washing them. 

If it’s absolutely impossible for you to wash your cycling clothes right away, it’s strongly suggested to air-dry all your gear between rides. Making sure that your specialized material doesn’t sit in a damp pile for very long is one of the most important components to keeping your gear clean and avoiding a pungent, lingering aroma. 

4. Use a Laundry Bag if Machine Washing

Some cycling experts recommend keeping your bike shorts and other gear separated from your usual wash. While it’s true that including your gear with your regular laundry increases the risk of color bleeding and your gear looking dingy, the advantages of washing your cycling garments with your other clothes must be noted.

Here is a good choice of laundry bags from Amazon:

The convenience of adding your gear in with a normal load makes it easier to keep your clothes on a regular wash schedule, therefore improving their chances of staying clean and functional longer. 

Adding your cycling gear to your usual laundry load can be also helpful in making sure you keep to your wash schedule. 

However, because your cycling gear is a delicate composition of design and technology, it’s not advisable to just throw the bike shorts right in. After you’ve done any prep, rinsing off the dirt and mud and flipping the clothes inside out, you can treat them like “delicates”.

Mesh laundry bags are a helpful tool in keeping up your gear. If you don’t already own one for your regular laundry, they can be purchased online or at most general merchandise retailers.

Cycling gear in general is treated as “delicates” whenever you’re washing them. Most modern top or front loading washing machines have a variety of options for load settings. Using the mesh bag and the delicate setting, you should be safe to toss your cycling right in with the rest of your clothes.

5. Use Cold Water for Your Wash

Cold water is usually a safe selection for your washing machine if you’re not sure what setting to use. 

Cold water is useful in removing natural stains, such as mud or grass, provided it’s accompanied by the right detergent and preparation. 

The colder settings on washing machines are used for delicate laundries, such as lace and silk, so it’s a smart choice for your synthetic fabric gear. Cold water in the washing machine is also ideal for dark, colorful clothes, meaning those sponsorship logos on your favorite cycling shirts and shorts will do well in a cooler setting. 

Hot water can be extremely damaging to the material of your cycling gear. Materials designed with sweat-wicking technology run the risk of having their fibers melted in a hot water wash, which hinders the material’s ability to perform the function it was designed for. 

Cold water and low spin cycles are the safest settings for you to use when washing bike shorts and other athletic gear made from similar materials. 

6. Use Less Detergent

Most detergents available today will do fine for your cycling shorts. More important than what variety of laundry detergent you use, the amount included in each load should be carefully regulated. 

Liquid laundry detergent (the most commonly used variety) is stronger than many people expect. 

Because liquid detergent is so concentrated, you don’t need very much to get your cycling gear perfectly clean. Even the suggested amounts on the caps of most American laundry detergent bottles are more than necessary for your gear. 

Realistically, you only need a few drops of concentrated liquid laundry soap to get your gear clean. However, even for that small amount, it’s important to make sure you’re only using laundry detergent in your cycling gear load. 

7.  Avoid Bleach and Fabric Softeners

Do not use fabric softeners on your cycling gear. Aside from leaving a noticeable difference in the way the material feels against the skin, fabric softeners can ruin the stretch components and dramatically reduce your gear’s longevity.

Bleach should never be used on your cycling gear, not even to re-whiten material. All bleach, even that which is non-chlorinated, is extremely hard on performance materials’ composition.

8. Use the Extra Rinse Cycle

This is a simple step, but it’s an extra precaution you can take towards ensuring your gear comes out safe and ready to carry you on your next ride. 

As mentioned in the last section, it’s advisable to use less detergent in your cycling gear laundry load because the detergent must totally dissolve and rinse out of the items. The extra rinse setting on most washing machines is an easy way to add a little more water to the wash cycle. This helps by ensuring that all the soap is thoroughly flushed out of the material. 

If you’re washing your cycling shorts by hand, which is less advisable according to bicycling.com, the same effect can be achieved by increasing the amount of water in your water-to-soap ratio.

Once the laundry cycle is over, it’s time to dry your gear.

9. Drying Your Cycling Gear

There are varying opinions among cycling experts as to whether it’s advisable to dry cycling clothes in a dryer.

Some cycling experts say using a standard tumble dryer is okay for most cycling gear, provided that the dryer is on a lower, cooler setting.

The danger of using a tumble dryer for your bike shorts or other specialized material cycling gear is that the heat of the machine may cause the fibers to melt. Indeed, the same risk of heat damage that was noted with the washing machine also applies to the dryer. 

Therefore, if you do decide to tumble dry your gear, make sure to use a lower heat setting on your machine. 

Most cycling enthusiasts and experts, however, agree that it’s safer to air dry your cycling gear. Air drying on a clothesline or drying rack is an easy way to make sure the clothes don’t sit in a damp pile long enough to grow mildew or bacteria. 

By allowing the material to dry in the sun, instead of under the more intense heat of a tumble dryer, your gear isn’t exposed to anything it wouldn’t see on the bike trail. Allowing nature to dry your cycling gear means the material is being taken care of by the same elements it was designed to withstand. 

10. Know Which Items Need Special Care

Some elements of a cycling wardrobe are weather-specific, such as rain-resistant jackets, windbreakers, etc. The materials in these utilize specialized technology make them perfectly suited to get you down the trail through any weather. And in the same way these garments provide you with special care, you must return the favor for them to continue working. 

Specialized items like these do better if they are not washed in the machine. A gentle hand wash is best for maintaining the utility of the garment. After washing and air drying water-resistant items, adding an additional coat of water-resistant spray helps extend the life of the garment. 

Another specialty item that requires some extra TLC when cleaning is the spongy crotch-pad in most bike shorts. This is made from a material called chamois, which is incredibly comfortable and protective of your most sensitive region during your ride. 

Hand washing and immediately air drying this section of your cycling wardrobe will help prevent the absorbent chamois from growing bacteria. 

11. Hand Wash Your Cycling Gear

The virtues of hand washing versus machine washing your gear are still disagreed upon by experts in the cycling industry. Both methods have their pros and cons, and in the end, it’s up to each individual cyclist to find what works best for them and their gear. 

If you decide to hand wash your cycling wardrobe, make sure to use cool water and less detergent than you would use for a load of regular laundry in the machine.

Some cyclists have said that washing their bike clothes with a small bit of shampoo in the sink has been effective for them as opposed to machine washing. 

Use less detergent and cool water if you decide to hand wash your cycling shorts.
If you decide to hand wash your cycling wardrobe, make sure to use cool water and less detergent.

Also disagreed upon within the cycling community is the value of sport-specific laundry detergent. Brands such as Nathan Sports Wash, Assos Cleanser, and Nikwax base-wash/tech-wash (all available on Amazon.com) are safe options for your specialty material gear. 

Other Cyclists, however, reassure that standard laundry detergents such as Tide work equally well for cycling gear. As long as the detergent is not a fabric softener and doesn’t contain bleach of any kind, it should be okay for your cycling gear. 

Remember, however, the ratio of soap to water required for cycling gear is less than most people use in their regular laundry. 

12. Read the Tag!

Some brands of bike shorts and other cycling gear have specific instructions for how to keep their product clean. Always refer to the tag before making decisions about how to wash the articles of your cycling wardrobe.

Keeping your bike clothes clean doesn’t need to be a pain in the shorts. Follow these simple guidelines and enjoy your rides supported by fresh, clean gear every day. 

What’s the Best Way To Wash Your Bike Shorts?

The best way to take great care of your bike shorts (along with all your other cycling clothes) is to know your gear. Use less detergent than usual laundry loads and be sure to stay away from fabric softeners and bleach of any kind. 

As a general rule, always turn clothes inside out, zip up and fasten all buttons, zippers or Velcro. Rinse with plenty of water beforehand and treat the clothes gently if you choose to wash using a machine.

Wash with extra water on cool settings. When drying your bike shorts, either air dry or set the tumble dryer to a lower, cooler setting. Know what your gear needs and treat it gently, and that gear will keep you peddling for years and miles to come. 

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