You Smell

By Sharon Naylor

February 27, 2015 4 min read

If you got distracted after your most recent visit to the gym and didn't remove all your workout clothing, shoes and gear from your gym bag, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise when you unzip that bag a few days later. The odor from sweaty workout clothing and shoes can create a cloud of horrible stench when you do open that bag, and -- perhaps just as bad -- the bag itself can hold on to those odors for a long time to come.

And don't forget about your walking or workout shoes. You'll want to avoid any embarrassment that can occur when you take off your shoes in the locker room, before yoga class or just when you get home, as your shoes release an unpleasant smell from sweat and bacteria that causes an awful odor.

Here are some top tips to remove nasty odors from your gym bag and shoes:

--Baking soda. Sarah Aguirre, the housekeeping expert, suggests making a baking soda-filled cloth pouch (tied with string) and popping this easy baking soda sachet into each of your athletic shoes to absorb and eliminate odors. A slightly larger baking soda sachet can work wonders in your gym bag as well. The sachet prevents the mess of sprinkling baking soda directly into your shoes or bag. Baking soda is an especially winning option, Aguirre says, because "using baking soda can reduce sensitive skin reactions with other odor-removing materials," and it will "also remove odors without adding other fragrances that linger." An added benefit to the pouch: a buildup of baking soda can cause some shoes to become brittle. Leave the sachets in place overnight for optimal odor reduction.

--Fabric softener sheets. Another common household item that can improve bad odors in your gym bag and shoes is dryer sheets, tucked into place and left there overnight to remedy scents.

--A deodorizing bag with an active charcoal ingredient. You'll find odor-fighter pouches and sachets in sporting goods stores, as well as in shoe stores, that naturally fight offensive odors. You'll also find brand-name odor-fighting shoe spheres in these stores and online, and they can work in your bag as well as in shoes. Follow product instructions carefully.

--Vinegar. Create a natural deodorizing spray for the inside of plastic gym bags, using a 50 percent white vinegar, 50 percent water mixture, and you can also add a few drops of essential oil to add a more pleasant scent. Spritz your gym bag gently; allow it to sit for a few minutes; wipe the bag down; and allow it to dry completely before putting anything back in the bag.

--Sunlight. Some cleansing experts suggest emptying your bag, removing pads from your shoes and letting both sit out in the sun, where UV rays can naturally fight odors.

One thing you can do about your gym bag is to switch to a new bag made of anti-microbial material that won't contribute to odor-causing bacterial buildup. Bamboo is one such material that is anti-microbial and naturally odor-reducing. You can even switch to workout clothing made of bamboo fabric, which will also reduce any odors in your gym bag or yoga bag.

If you don't wish to switch to an antimicrobial fabric bag at this time, you can always wash your gym bag in hot water on a more frequent schedule, again letting it dry completely before packing it back up again with your gym clothing, shoes and gear. And when you do put sweaty workout clothing into your gym bag, place it instead in a sealable plastic bag to help keep odors from absorbing into your gym bag material in the future. The same goes with your workout shoes, which can also be stored in their own sealable bag and stowed in your roomy gym bag.

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