Can you wash bike shorts? Do I need to handwash them in the sink or is it okay to throw them in the dryer with my other clothing? It doesn’t have to be hard to care for your expensive biking shorts, and I’ll show you how.
Can You Wash Bike Shorts
Yes, as long as you wash them in cold water, use a heated setting on the dryer, and avoid harsh detergents that can wreak havoc on synthetic fibers.
After reading this article, you’ll know how to properly care for your Lycra biking shorts or bibs whether they have a chamois crotch or not.
How To Care For Bicycle Shorts
All clothing has a care label attached for washing instructions, and it’s best to follow the instructions on the tag.
The following precautions can help your clothing last longer. While you don’t need special clothing to ride a bike, every biker has their favorite shorts they love riding in.
Use The Delicate Cycle
Some people prefer to wash their cycling clothing by hand, especially, if they paid a lot of money. Unless your shorts are specially labeled “hand-wash” it should be fine to throw them in the washer machine.
That being said, modern cycling shorts are mostly made of spandex (Lycra) with a synthetic chamois. Some people on biking forums have complained about their biking shorts shrinking after washing in hot water.
After some careful research, I found that while spandex may shrink, it has the ability to snap back to its original size without losing its elasticity.
Hot water will break down the fibers in the Lycra that keep it elastic, and over time, they may not fit the same way.
Will Cold Water Clean Clothes?
Yes, with the technological advances in detergents and washing machines, cold water washing is a safe way to clean clothing.
That being said, it may not necessarily eliminate odor or kill germs in workout clothing.
Most bicycle shorts will be fine to wash in warm water unless it specifically states not too. If you notice your shorts still have a smell to them after being washed, consider doing a cool-water pre-rinse within 15 minutes after your bike ride.
This will help eliminate the odor during the next cold water wash. Try using a cold-water detergent for your biking gear, to help remove the odors.
Wash Bike Clothing Separately
It may be tempting to wash your bicycle clothing with your everyday clothing, or all your biking clothing in one cycle, especially if you hate doing laundry.
Wash your biking shorts separately, as the velcro on your gloves can destroy the Lycra.
Always separate the darks and whites, as this will prevent your biking shorts from becoming dingy.
It’ll also protect your shorts from being accidentally thrown in with a load of whites that you’ve used Clorox.
Chlorine bleach will destroy the elastane fibers, which will make the elasticity fit differently.
Close The Zipper
If your bike shorts have zippers like most mountain bike shorts, you’ll want to zip make sure you zip them up before washing.
Undone zippers can break or damage the drum of your washer machine. The zipper can also become snagged on lace or other delicate items, which is the main reason to wash your bicycle jerseys and shorts alone.
Use Gentle Cleansers
Avoid using harsh chemicals and detergents that contain synthetic fragrances and can wreak havoc to biking shorts or other clothing.
Not only can they weaken the elastic around the waistband and thigh bands, but they can cause your skin to become irritated the next time you wear them.
Avoid harmful stong detergents with Potassium hydroxide phosphates, formaldehyde, and other chemicals that can cause skin rashes and irritants.
Here’s a list of the toxic chemicals you should avoid in laundry detergent.
These following laundry detergents are safe for our environment and health.
- Sun and Earth Laundry Detergent
- Seventh Generation
- Planet Ultra
- Attitude (hypoallergenic detergent)
You might be tempted to use fabric softener, dryer sheets, or detergent/ fabric softener product because it makes your clothes smell better.
But, fabric softener will leave a coating on your shorts that will break down the wicking technology that protects your skin and keeps you cool while biking. This residue will not only dull the finish, but it will attract more bacteria that cause excessive odor.
So if you can’t use fabric softener, how do you get the bad odor out?
Add Baking Soda For The Smell
Adding just a small amount of Arm and Hammer baking soda can make your Lycra bike shorts smell great.
You won’t have to worry about getting rash or skin irritations when you wear the clothing.
No matter what type of detergent you use, you can improve the deodorizing power with half a cup of Arm & Hammer baking soda.
- Place your clothes in the washer
- Add your detergent
- Run the cycle
- Add half a cup of baking soda during the rinse cycle
For the best results, never wash lycra material with other types of clothing.
Set The Dryer Temperature
While you can put cycling clothing in the dryer, as long as it isn’t recommended to air dry only. That being said, over time the direct heat from the dryer may cause your shorts to fit differently.
It’s best to hang dry your clothes inside out on a drying rack indoors or outdoors to allow the chamois to dry.
How Long Does It Take To Air Dry?
You should expect it to take up to two to four hours for your clothing to dry outside on a nice warm day, depending on the fabric type.
Whether you put your shorts in the dryer or air dry, you need to make sure the chamois crotch is 100 percent dry before wearing again. If not, you’re creating the perfect breeding situation for bacteria to grow, which can lead to bigger problems.
How Often Should I Wash My Bike Shorts?
Bicycle shorts are expensive and many people don’t wash them after every ride, because they don’t want to ruin them. But, bicycle shorts, socks, and shirts should be washed after every bike ride.
If you don’t want to do laundry after every bike ride, you should consider buying more than one pair.
You don’t have to buy them all at once. Buy them gradually and before you know it, you’ll have more than one pair and you won’t have to worry about washing them after every bike ride.
Biking shorts can get dirty quickly and you shouldn’t be scared to wash them. Instead, you should be scared of what happens if you wear dirty biking shorts.
As long as you follow the steps above, they should be able to last for more than one season.