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Given a "standard" cyclist's wardrobe (e.g. paddded shorts, jerseys, moisture-wicking t-shirts and socks--made of blends of lycra, spandex, wool, and other "specialty" fabrics) what special-care products are good to have to ensure longevity of the garment and its functionality?

I've so far been using a cold-water delicate-cycle wash with a free & clear detergent and line-drying. My only issue is I've noticed some base layers still have a bit of odor left-over, certainly not enough to need a second wash--but presumably due to either sub-par cleaning technique or products.

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Unfortunately, one of the properties of lycra is that odors never quite get all the way out. (Part of the point of lycra is that it wicks sweat away from the body through the fabric.) –  Neil Fein Jul 12 '11 at 16:42

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The fundamental problem with synthetic garments is that some of the fibres (particularly early nylon and current polyester) have spaces within the fibres that are perfect-sized cocoons for growing the bacteria that give rise to body odour. 'Boil wash' the garment to kill the bacteria and you damage the fabric. Cold-wash to look after the fabric and you don't kill the bacteria. It means you cannot win on a regular machine wash.

As mentioned vinegar (an acid) works to kill the bacteria. The same goes with a domestic alkali such as baking soda. If this pre-wash is too much effort and you just want the bacteria killed then you can get TAED or 'oxy' add-in for your wash - same aisle as the regular washing powders, smaller packs. This works at low temperatures and with my clothes but there is no way in a million years that I would advise an 'Assos' garment (or equivalent) be washed with TAED.

You can also invest in the base-layers that have silver particles embedded in them. These are up-market garments that cost a bit more but pay off in the no-smells department.

Also of use is a dehumidifier, the DeLonghi DNC65 will work wonders in the changing room at work or at home in the winter months to purge moisture from the air where your clothing develops its pong. A lot of life's problems were solved with the DNC65 for me and my invariably damp cycle attire.

The aim of the game is to not have the bacteria grow, it is therefore best to shower before riding to work (not at work) as fresh sweat does not smell - just the bacteria that develop 12 hours later (when you are home). Therefore, clean body and no bacteria gets transferred to the clothing - it stays that bit cleaner.

I don't think anything can be done with cheaper fabrics that get infested with bacteria - a good set of quality items, washed as per the instructions and kept scrupulously dry in-between rides with a bit of 'oxy' added to the wash is the best strategy. You also want to avoid merely disguising smells - the deodorant strategy - as that does not really work.

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Actually, it's not bacteria so much as fatty acids. Fatty acids such as butyric acid in the sweat get "welded" to the fabric and are difficult to wash out. They require a peculiar set of chemicals to soluablize or degrade them and eliminate the odor. Soaking in ammonia solution followed by a hot hydrogen peroxide solution will do it, but it's expensive and the peroxide is hard on the fabric. The hunter's washing powder seems to do an equivalent job for less money and with no apparent damage to the fabric. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 7 '11 at 2:12
    
Why not just have 100% cotton clothes? –  ChrisW Jul 9 '11 at 1:14
    
@ChrisW - Mainly because lycra, wool, and athletic fabrics wick moisture and stay drier. A damp, clammy cotton T-shirt is truly unpleasant. Cotton is especially bad in cool/cold wet weather and can contribute to hypothermia. In my cycling clothing, I can get soaked in a rain squall and be nearly dry 10 minutes later... –  user313 Jul 10 '11 at 5:15
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@wdypdx22 - You mean why do I think it's the best answer? It's thorough, well-written, and AFAIK, it's all correct. –  Neil Fein Jul 13 '11 at 0:02
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@STW No!!! Definitely not on posh clothes. (Just read labels - no bleach and I think it is technically a bleach). –  ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Jul 14 '11 at 19:36

I do the same thing you do... Except, I run an additional rinse cycle with vinegar prior to the final plain water rinse.

I just fill the bleach compartment with vinegar instead of bleach. Set the cycle, hit the button and the machine does the rest. I think it's about 1/4 cup of vinegar.

My washer is a fairly new front loader with almost too many options, so I can program special cycles allowing the vinegar pre-rinse. With my old top-loader, I would do a vinegar pre-rinse in cold water in a pail.

I have also used a product called, WIN High Performance Sport Laundry Detergent, which worked fine but not any better than the vinegar pre-rinse. You can get this stuff and similar products at sporting goods stores. The speciality products tend to be a bit expensive though.

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Awesome tip to try out--I love the simple home remedies –  STW Jul 7 '11 at 1:59

I use the Assos Active Wear cleanser which is a commercial product that does the same as some of the home remedies previously listed.

It works for me, and it has the benefit of maintaining the warranty on the Assos Clothing, which is worthwhile, given the extreme cost of the clothing to begin with.

Their clothes are guaranteed not to shrink, stretch or become misshapen, if you follow the directions for care. If you have an issue, they will repair or replace them. (The time frame is relative, but I've had my F1.13 bibs replaced after 1.5 years, so it should be at least a 2 year period.)

Cost varies, but in my area the small bottle is 10 dirhams (USD 2.5) and the large bottle is 40 dirhams (USD 10).

*Note - this refers to issues with care, not with sewing or graphic defects. That portion of the warranty is 200 miles or 300km on the bike, which is flexible to say the least.

From the Assos website:

[Active Wear Cleanser][1]

When laundering ASSOS clothing, we recommend traditional hand washing
or gentle machine washing, using ASSOS Active Wear Cleanser. ASSOS
Active Wear Cleanser is delicate on elastic fibers, pH neutral,
neutralizes odors, enhances textile breathability and maintains sharp
color sublimation.

Bottle of Assos Activewear Cleanser

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To keep my kits from smelling terrible, I shower immediately after a ride and bring the kit and some laundry detergent into the shower with me. I hand-wash the kit while it's still fresh. I dry the kit by rolling it up in a towel a few times in different orientations to get the excess water out and then just hang it to dry fully. It's a cheaper alternative to the coin-op washing machines after every ride and it allows for stopping the BO early.

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To eliminate odor, go to a hunting supply place (eg, Cabela's in the US) and buy some of the stuff intended to wash hunters' clothes and get all the human scent out. (You put an ounce or two of the powder in the machine with a small load of clothes and your standard detergent.) This does an outstanding job at eliminating latent body odor.

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Nice tip, read on for one of my own... –  ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Jul 6 '11 at 23:20

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