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TLC for Your Technical Gear

Running apparel isn’t cheap, so you want to keep it in the best shape for as long as possible. Here are 5 tips to keep running tops and bottoms looking new (and smelling fresh) longer.

1. Start With the Best. Don’t skimp on quality when purchasing moisture-wicking tops, shorts, and bras. If they pill, stretch, or fray after three workouts, they’re not worth any initial savings. You’ll wear these workhorses every day, so buy two of each of the best pieces you can afford, and use them on alternate days. This is especially important when buying bras: Find the best-fitting bra for the impact level of your workout (e.g., a high-impact bra for running, and a medium- or low-impact one for weight training and yoga), and be sure to replace them at least every six months.

2. Wear, Wash, Repeat. Don’t be tempted to get an extra workout from the sweaty duds you wore today. Yes, you can always hang them up so they’ll be dry for tomorrow’s run, but you’ll be asking for trouble. Technical fabrics tenaciously hold on to sweat and odors. Each additional workout “imprints” the stains and smells, making them harder to remove. Eventually, your beloved singlet may become so offensive that you’ll be forced to toss it in the trash. Money wasted.

3. Add a Buffer. Many running shorts feature nifty liners that supposedly eliminate the need for underwear. But before long, and despite your best efforts at following Step 2 above, those liners can become pretty objectionable. It’s probably best to just wear your skivvies under your shorts from the get-go. For minimum bulk, wear a thin pair in a wicking fabric similar to that of the liner.

4. Handle With Care. Try to wash a few loads of gear every week, mixing it with other non-sports-related apparel as needed to fill up the washer. Always use the “delicate” or “hand washables” cycle on your washing machine (or, soak your items in cold water in the bathroom sink for 15 minutes, then rinse). For most loads, choose a gentle detergent created specifically for hand washables (such as Woolite, $12.79/12 oz. at Target). Every few weeks, use a stronger detergent with odor-releasing properties (such as Tide Sport with Febreeze, $8.99/69 oz. at Walmart). Rotating between a gentle detergent and an odor-fighting one will preserve the life of the fabric while keeping smells at bay. And whichever detergent brand you choose, never add fabric softener to the rinse cycle, as this will reduce (and eventually eliminate) your gear’s moisture-wicking properties

5. Hang It Up. Always hang your running apparel to dry after washing. Even if the label insists that you can toss it in the dryer on a low setting, err on the side of caution here to prevent shrinkage and preserve the life of the fabric. If you do want to live on the edge and use your dryer, by all means, don’t add a fabric softener sheet to the load.