How to wash cycling clothes21 March 2023
By the time you’ve finished a long or exhilarating ride, cleaned and lubricated your bike and finally got back into your home, washing your cycling clothes might be the last thing on your mind. That little voice in your head tells you it can wait until tomorrow, and before you know it, you’ve left them in a sweaty pile for a week.
We’ve all been there, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you put off washing your cycling clothes because you think it’s going to take ages, don’t worry. Below, we detail the things to try - and things to avoid - when you next wash your kit.
How to wash a cycling jersey
If you’re a serial offender for leaving your cycling kit dirty for days on end, now’s the time to change your ways. Cycling clothing is designed to get sweaty, but when you leave your kit unwashed, bacteria from your sweat builds up and up. Not only is it more likely to smell after washing, but oils and dirts are more likely to stain. Although it’s best to wash your cycling kit separately, washing your jerseys and legwear with similarly coloured regular clothes - to avoid colour bleeds - is better than not washing them at all.
Likewise, while hand washing your kit may be more gentle, it’s unlikely to damage your clothes or make them wear out faster if you use a machine. Make sure to pick a sportswear, delicate or synthetics cycle for the best results - and always check the garment care label first to be sure.
What are cycling jerseys made of?
Cycling jerseys, like most items of cycling apparel, are made of high quality synthetic fabrics to be durable, breathable and aerodynamic. As synthetics, they’re unlikely to bleed into other fabrics, but that doesn’t mean you should wash them on the highest heat. Stick to cool washes with minimum spin to protect your clothing from the risk of a too-vigorous wash.
Additionally, when it comes to detergents, remember that less is more. Always err on the side of caution, as too much detergent can be damaging to performance fabrics - and it won’t get your clothes any cleaner. Set the fabric softener aside too - there’s no benefit to it with cycling clothes, and it can trap odour and oil in the fabric.
The same applies to Merino wool gear - stick to a cool wash, mild soap and leave the bleaches and fabric softeners on the shelf. When it comes to drying Merino wool, skip the tumble dryer and dry clothing flat. Don’t hang Merino wool items on the washing line as they may stretch with the weight of the water as they dry. If you’re in any doubt, check the garment care label before washing.
How to wash cycling shorts
When it comes to washing your bib shorts or other cycling legwear, the best thing to do is to turn them inside out. This helps to protect the outer layer of the material, reducing the abrasion to logos and decorative patterns. It also means the chamois padding gets a better clean, which is important for the hygiene of future rides.
Other things you can do to better protect your clothing in the wash include closing zippers, fastening any velcro straps, and pre-rinsing any particularly muddy items. You can also use stain-release products on any especially troublesome patches.
Finally, when it’s time to dry your cycling clothes, it’s generally best to give the tumble dryer a hard pass. Heat can be damaging to performance fabrics and the tumbling action can be abrasive. Instead, hang your kit on a washing line and let it air dry naturally.
What to do with old cycling clothes
While looking after your cycling gear is an excellent idea, the latest upgrades can be tempting too. We’re big believers in treating yourself, especially if it has the potential to improve your cycling performance - but what should you do with your old gear?
Firstly, ask around your fellow cyclists to see if there’s anyone who could make use of the kit. You may know a newbie cyclist who doesn’t have the disposable income necessary to fully kit themselves out at the start, so chances are they’d greatly appreciate the gesture.
You could also try schools, youth organisations and sports clubs in your local area. If they can’t use the donations themselves, there’s a good possibility they’ll be able to direct you to someone who can, and you can be sure you’re helping the next generation to get into the sport you love.