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I know the labels say to use "delicate" detergent. Well, how exactly do I know if its "delicate?" I used to use Woolite, but then read somewhere that I shouldn't. (Article didn't say why.) So, what's best for cleaning them?

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Check the tags for how much cotton is in the clothes. I use cold water to wash, and hang dry -- synthetic is generally a quick dry material. – OMG Ponies Mar 24 '12 at 3:28
also, make sure any velcro hooks are closed...otherwise you're going to have issues in the dryer. – dotjoe Mar 26 '12 at 21:41
Don't use a dryer! – Criggie Jan 29 at 12:34

For cycling clothing made of synthetic materials (lycra, spandex, etc), a modern, high efficiency washing machine, or even a normal machine on a gentle cycle, is the way to go:

  • Cold water mild detergent or "athletic" clothing detergent.
  • Gentle cycle and cold water. Optional, pre-rinse with 1/2 cup white vinegar.
  • Hang to dry.

For expensive wool:

  • Prior to having a high efficiency machine, I hand-washed with a wool specific detergent.
  • My current machine has a wool/gentle cycle. I use that now with an appropriate detergent.
  • Lay flat to dry.

Well, how exactly do I know if its "delicate?"

The detergents are usually labelled as such. Generally, detergents labeled, "cold water" will be fine. The bike shop guys will say that you need to use "special" detergents. Nah. Any cold water detergent will be fine.

FWIW - I have 10+ year old jerseys that are perfectly fine. The shorts and bibs don't last so long, and I figure it's the wear and tear.

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I wash my workout gear (running, biking, gym, swimming) in cold water with a sports specific detergent. I add a little white vinegar as well. My favorite is Win Sport Detergent, but cannot find it locally anymore, so I have switched to Penguin Brands Penguin Sport Wash. Then I hang it all to dry, no dryer. This has worked well to get sweat odors and not damage the (expensive) gear.

We now have a front load wash machine which is more gentle on all clothes and I think that helps for the longevity of my sports gear.

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There are wash additives sold to hunters (and available at "outdoor" shops such as Gander Mountain) that do a good job of removing odors -- they're specially designed to get out the fatty acids that contribute to "sweat smell" (and which hunted animals can supposedly sense).

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I'm too cheap to buy anything special so i just machine wash cold and tumble dry low, but I've heard from a handful of people that Sport-Wash works great on performance/technical/synthetic fabrics. It's supposed to preserve the technical features of synthetic fabrics, and it's also supposed to be better than the average detergent at getting lingering body odor out. For some reason synthetics are really good at holding onto odors. That's a bigger deal for your riding buddies than for yourself if you tend to stay in front of them ;)

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A friend of mine called Helly-Hansen baselayers, Smelly-Hansen for this reason. – James Bradbury Apr 18 '13 at 12:07

Assos Active Wear, the the Swiss cycling clothing company, has a specific, active wear detergent cleanser which is required to use if you want to maintain the very respectable warranty on their clothing.

I've found it to do a great job with odor, and a good job with stains, if you use it as a pre-treatment on the stain itself.

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