SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? [Email her.](mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ask a Clean Person and Style Girlfriend are teaming up to bring you the latest on what to wear for spring and summer… this week, they’re talking gym bags.
I regularly work out with a friend of mine, and he uses a nylon Puma backpack as his gym bag. This thing … is horrible. The stench that comes out of it could honestly be considered some form of biochemical warfare. Nothing survives once it’s in there — the smell gets into his clothes, which is exacerbated once he works out in them, and then he puts the clothes back in the backpack and the whole monstrous cycle continues. Short of burning the backpack, I’m not sure what can be done; is it hopeless? Can the smell ever be eradicated in any meaningful way? I’ve become obsessed with figuring out how to clean this thing. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you!!
I think we can nuke that smell, yes, but even though I know better than to ask questions there just aren’t any answers to, I’m going to anyway: WHY is he still using this bag instead of addressing the problem or getting a new one?! Like…he smells himself, right? I mean … okay actually I’m going to stop with the unanswerable questions and get back to the answerable one, which is can this gym bag be saved.
Yes, I think it can. And I think it will be pretty easy!
First of all, LW gave me one very clutch piece of information, which is that the bag is made of nylon. Here’s some great news about nylon: It is machine washable! In fact, most gym bags will be machine washable, provided they’re not overly structured — many gym bags have a bottom panel inside the bag that’s removable, making the bag more flexible and less likely to get damaged in the washing machine. That bottom panel should also be cleaned, by wiping it with a damp sudsy rag. Because this bag in particular has a DEEP FUNK to it, I would suggest using Dr. Bronner’s for this operation, since we know it to be highly effective at eliminating odors.
I realize I should also say this: You can use any of the Dr. Bronner’s scents you like, including the unscented kind — they all work equally well at odor removal. (I’m a rose gal, myself, but I would be, wouldn’t I?) If you have commitment issues, Dr. Bronner’s makes a 4 oz. sample set so you can try almond, eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, and the infamous peppermint to decide which you like best.
But back to that machine washing operation: You can certainly use Dr. Bronner’s for laundry, and that will be a good choice here (¼- ⅓ cup will do it for this since you’ll only be washing one item; use half that if your washing machine is a HE model). You could also use a sports detergent like Hex or Sport Suds. You can also use your regular detergent combined with a half a cup of white vinegar, which has odor eliminating properties. Wash the bag in its own load, using cold water and the delicate cycle, then allow it to air dry. That’s all! It is, perhaps, entirely possible that even after washing the bag will retain a bit of a smell; not to worry, just wash it again. Sometimes a second go is all that’s needed when it comes to stubborn cleaning jobs.
Now, let’s say you have a bag that you feel shouldn’t go in the washing machine — no problem, I got you covered. You can use the Dr. Bronner’s to clean it by wiping the interior and exterior using a damp rag dipped in a bowl of the diluted soap. It may require several passes, and after swabbing the bag, you’ll want to go over it with clean water to remove soap residue, but that’s really all that’s needed. If a bag that isn’t machine washable is still retaining a funk post-cleaning, try hitting it with a spray designed to eliminate odors in athletic shoes, like Dr. Scholl’s Odor X or Kiwi Fresh Force. Even good old Lysol will also work wonders.
One last thing to suggest is this: Consider investing in a wet sack to toss into your gym bag. That way, instead of fouling up the entire interior of the gym bag, your smelly, dirty clothes will only befoul the easily washable wet sack.