What Happens If You Re-Wear Dirty Workout Clothes

by Isadora Baum, CHC

I get it, sometimes we're too lazy to do another load of laundry. Plus, if you're a gym rat who has a daily spin class after work, you're bound to leave feeling sweaty, smelly, and in need of a thorough cleansing. Still, it's tempting to queue up Netflix instead and just re-wear dirty gym clothes the following day, or two, or three. Best advice: suck it up and do the laundry. Your fellow gym-goers will thank you, and you'll forgo the potential embarrassment of being the stinky person at the gym. Plus, you'll avoid uncomfortable health conditions, which can result in a build up of germs and bacteria over time, advises running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer, over email with Bustle.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on figuring out an exercise routine that suits their needs, builds confidence, and fits in nicely with their daily schedule. If you set a goal that isn't attainable or realistic, you're less likely to follow through. If your goal works, and you're making progress, that's awesome; however, it's also important to keep yourself hygienic and protected in the process. With a new fitness regimen comes additional exposure to germs, bacteria, and health conditions, unless you're responsible in keeping yourself clean and healthy. Here are 9 things that can happen if you re-wear workout clothes, without giving an adequate wash.

1. Yeast Infection

In order to avoid troubles down there, make sure your gym clothes are clean and fresh with each use, advises Lemmer. When you're re-wearing exercise leggings or shorts, without doing the laundry, you're allowing the sweat to build up and cause irritation to a very sensitive area. Yeast infections are super unpleasant, so it's smart to just do another load after use.

2. Dermatitis

Lemmer explains that you can get dermatitis from exercising in dirty clothing. Dermatitis is a condition where the skin becomes inflamed, and inflammation in the skin can appear in the form or itchiness, rashes, acne, and eczema, among others, as further explained by experts at WebMD. Such allergic reactions can become more serious if left untreated.

3. Irritated Skin

In general, irritated skin is basic but certainly potent, advises Lemmer, as it can lead to flaky skin, redness, blisters, pimples, and more uncomfortable health conditions. If you notice yourself having flareups of any kind, especially around sensitive areas, stop re-wearing workout gear to check if it makes a difference moving forward.

4. Decreased Immunity

If you're re-wearing dirty clothes, you're exposing yourself to germs and bacteria that can put you at risk of catching a cold or a more serious health condition, in a weakened state, advised Josh Zeichner, M.D., a dermatologist and the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City over interview with Cosmopolitan. When your immune system drops, you're less able to resist these environmental toxins, and you might get fungal infections or heart conditions.

5. Bad Odor

According to a study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology and study researcher, Chris Callewaert, over interview with Huffington Post, bad odors that can come from a buildup of bacteria from sweat after use can stay on clothing for a long time and release a strong, ammonia smell that can be instantly detected.

6. Acne

If you re-wear gym clothes, which have germs and bacteria on them, you're more likely to find breakouts and acne on the skin. Acne can definitely pop up on the legs, arms, neck, back, and in rather sensitive areas, as well. Wash after use in order to keep your skin clean and smooth.

7. Oily Feel

If your gym clothes start to feel oily and slimy after a few uses without a wash in between, you're not imagining things. When you re-wear sweaty workout clothes, you'll see a build up of oils form a layer that can feel greasy and damp to the touch. These oils can lead to breakouts, rashes, and skin irritations.

8. Stained Clothes

When you're clothes, especially a sports bra, become sweaty and sit for a few days, you might find stains on your clothing start to appear. These stains can be due to oils, bacteria strains, and even deodorant that's been sitting too long on the material. Wash after use to keep it fresh.

9. Chaffed Nipples

Robin Travers, MD, a dermatologist in Boston, explained over interview with Fitness that sports bras that are left unwashed become high in toxic elements that can lead to rashes and friction on the skin. These issues can lead to chaffed nipples, dry patches, itchiness, and other health conditions that bring discomfort.

The good news? You can avoid these problems by just doing a load of laundry and keeping up with a regular routine. Plus, you can also turn the Netflix on and watch while you wait for the washing machine cycle to end.

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