POPSUGAR shared that you might want to think twice before putting on that dirty sports bra for a next-day workout. Of course, sometimes you’re in a bind for time and you grab what’s most convenient. But if you start regularly wearing the same, unwashed clothes for days or weeks at a time, it can really put your health at risk. (And you’ll probably start to smell, too.)
The same rules apply for lounging around in sweaty gymwear. If you’re meeting friends for happy hour after exercising, you’ll need to change, stat. (And, to note, you’ll also probably be a whole lot more comfortable in dry clothes.)
Here, we got a few experts to explain why you should really be doing that extra load of laundry. (And here’s how to wash workout clothes the right way.)
You Could Get a Yeast Infection
Yikes. Because dirty workout clothes create germs that breed bacteria and live on clothing until washed, it can lead to a yeast infection, board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Peyman Banooni, MD, tells POPSUGAR. And if the clothing is restricting or made with synthetic fabrics, it might be even worse, as bacteria like moist, tight spaces, he says. (If you do get a yeast infection, here’s how to treat it.)
A tip? Use cotton clothing for workouts (it breathes better). “Synthetic material workout clothes tend to harbor the worst of the bacteria, harboring sweat and quickly multiplying. While cotton does retain bacteria that quickly multiplies, it tends to be mostly harmless,” Dr. Faisal Tawwab tells POPSUGAR.
And be prepared after leaving that HIIT class. “I recommend taking an extra set of clothes with you to the gym and changing immediately after your workout. If possible, showering after will also help to reduce the risk of an infection,” Banooni says.
When washing your clothes, use hot water to really get those germs out, he adds.
You Could Get a UTI
If those germs are chilling on your skin and clothes, it can cause a UTI, where you’re experiencing a bacterial infection in the vagina that can be treated with antibiotics for relief. Unfortunately, you might get red, itchy, and painful sensations down there until the infection is gone. (If you’re curious, here are a few other reasons you might get UTIs.)
Again, the germs that spread on clothing can irritate your skin, leading to UTI symptoms. And when you’re getting sweaty again during a workout in dirty clothing that already contains germs and bacteria, you’re giving that bacteria more breeding ground to spread and grow — which they love, he says.
A tip? Poor hygiene in general can lead to UTIs, says Banooni, so making a few lifestyle tweaks for better health can help lower risk. “Hydrate well before, during, and after a workout,” he says.
And load up on lean proteins, rather than carbohydrates. “A diet high in carbohydrates may also increase reoccurrence of yeast and bacterial infections,” he explains.
You Can Get Bad Acne
Acne on your neck, arms, back, and even groin area can surely happen when you frequently reuse dirty gym clothes or spend too much time in those sweaty leggings after class, says Tawwab.
Due to the lack of airflow in tight, constricted clothing, along with the germs and bacteria taking residence, it can create a buildup of oil and bacteria to form pimples, he explains.
So you’ll want to do another load before wearing the same outfit the next day. And it’s smart to bring wipes with you after class if you can’t shower, as you can then get rid of germs and wipe away sweat and oil. (And if you’re working with weights and equipment, beware of those germs.)