You returned home from your ride. You took off your cycling shorts, looked at them and started to wonder if you really need to wash them or if you can use them on your next ride. Let me be clear, that really shouldn’t be a question.
You should wash your cycling shorts after every ride. With every use, a lot of sweat gets absorbed into the fabric and chamois, which can develop bacteria. This can lead to saddle soreness and bacterial infection on your next ride.
After a hard day in the saddle, I know the last thing you want to do is wash your shorts. But it doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. Take a few minutes, wash them at least by hand and you’ll be thanking yourself on your next ride. Not to mention that your cycling buddies will also appreciate that you don’t smell.
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Should I wash cycling shorts after every use?
It shouldn’t be a question whether you should wash your cycling shorts after every ride. You were sweating in them for a few hours, for goodness sake. Most of the sweat is caught in that superabsorbent chamois that rubs your private part every time you’re on a bike.
Yes, you should ABSOLUTELY wash your cycling shorts after every ride!
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but there is some truth to what I wrote above. Cycling shorts get sweaty on every ride that’s longer than an hour. They’ll get sweaty even sooner if you’re riding on a hot summer day.
Sweat gets absorbed into the fabric, which is not such a problem. A much bigger problem presents the sweat that’s absorbed into the chamois.
Most cyclists don’t wear underwear under cycling shorts, including women. That way, they avoid a few problems during a ride. However, that means that the chamois is in contact with the most delicate parts of your body.
If the sweaty chamois is not washed, it can develop bacteria. We’ll talk about it later, but you should know that it can cause you a painful infection down there that will get you off the bike for a week or two. So do you really want to risk it just because you were lazy after a few hours on a bike?
A quick wash after every ride will significantly reduce the chances of getting an infection. It’s a no-brainer, really.
Wash your cycling shorts every time, no matter how short a ride. A few moments of work will keep you on a bike longer.
What can happen if I don’t wash cycling shorts after a ride?
I already mention that bacteria can develop on dirty shorts. However, that’s not the only problem you might have.
If you don’t wash your cycling shorts regularly, bacteria can develop, which can cause infection of your private parts. Particles of dirt also collect on the chamois, which rub against you on the next ride and cause chafing.
Let’s talk about the more unpleasant problems first.
Bacterial infection of the genitalia is not the worst thing that can happen to you. However, since it’s so easily avoidable, it’s stupid to get one because of dirty shorts.
Poor hygiene is one of the main reasons people get a genital infections. Riding with dirty shorts is nothing else than poor hygiene.
A bacterial infection will keep you off bike for 3-5 days.
According to Mayo Clinic, genital infection is characterized by itching, redness, swelling and foul smell. The combination of these will keep you off the bike for 3-5 days. It’s not much, but it’s going to be an uncomfortable few days.
Luckily, genital infection can be easily prevented by keeping your cycling shorts clean. If you still get it, you can treat it with improved hygiene and, in severe cases, antifungal cream and antibiotics.
One thing you want to avoid with not having underwear when cycling is chafing. And now you suffer from it because you didn’t wash your shorts. Pretty stupid of you, don’t you agree?
Let me explain the science behind it. Sweat contains water, salt and other minerals, as well as some other dirt particles. Once the water vaporizes, only minerals and dirt stay on the surface. They are hard to see with the naked eye but believe me, they are there. So these little particles will rub against your skin, causing chafing.
You’ve probably seen white stains on your cycling apparel after a tough ride. That’s the salt from the sweat left on the surface after the water evaporated. And it’s this salt that will rub your skin on the next ride if you don’t wash your shorts.
Chafing is a cyclist’s worst nightmare. It occurs on the part of the body that is constantly touching the seat, making sitting almost impossible or at least very painful. Depending on the severity of chafing, your rides will become much shorter or you may miss them altogether.
I’ll say it again – wash your shorts!
Washing cycling shorts doesn’t have to be complicated
We don’t do most things in life because we’re lazy. And it’s no different with cleaning cycling shorts after a ride.
You come home tired and all you want to do is lay on a couch and do nothing. You accept that you kinda have to go under the shower, but that’s about all you agree to do. However, you want to do another ride tomorrow and if you put your shorts in a washing machine, they’re not going to be washed and dry by tomorrow. So you decide not to wash them at all. A big mistake.
Take your shorts with you in the shower after your ride
Let me tell you a secret. Washing your cycling shorts doesn’t have to be complicated. A quick wash under running water with a mild detergent and a few rubs of chamois will do wonders.
A lot of cyclists take shorts with them under the shower and wash them while they shower themself. That way, they save time and water, but mostly they don’t need to summon the extra willpower to do the washing separately.
As you can see, a few minutes of attention to your sweaty shorts will make your next rides much more enjoyable. Not only for you but also for your cycling mates, who don’t like the smell of your sweaty, smelly shorts.
Hand washing shorts is a good solution if you want to use them again soon. However, I advise you to put them into a washing machine every five rides. A washing machine just washes the clothes more thoroughly and removes all the dirt we couldn’t get out by hand washing.
How to wash cycling shorts?
Cycling shorts have many requirements. They need to cushion the cyclist’s contact with the seat, wick away moisture and protect the cyclist from infections. Therefore they are made of materials that do all this.
Unfortunately, these materials can be damaged if not washed correctly. So I’ll give you a few instructions on how to wash them, so you’ll be able to use them again and again.
1. Wash cycling clothes alone
We have already established that cycling clothes are made from sensitive materials that can be easily damaged. Therefore, you should wash your cycling clothes alone, separate from other everyday laundry.
Jeans, towels and other harder items of clothing can hit or rub against the cycling clothing as it rotates in the drum and thus cause damage to the material.
After your ride, throw your cycling shorts into a washing machine with your jersey, base layer (if you wear one, which you should), socks, and potentially even cycling gloves. Girls can also add a bra, that you used on a ride.
Run a short program and in about half an hour you will have clean cycling gear ready for your next adventure.
2. Turn shorts inside out
Humans sweat through our skin, so shorts get the most sweaty on the inside. Before you put them in a washing machine, turn them inside out, so the inner side will get appropriately washed. You can also put them in a washbag for extra protection.
In addition, this also enables more thorough washing of the chamois, which is the main desire of every wash.
Don’t forget to empty your pockets before you throw the clothes in a washing machine.
3. Check your zippers
Remember when we were talking about jeans and towels damaging cycling clothes? Zippers can do it as well.
You probably figured out that zippers can’t be removed from cycling clothes, so we need to ensure that there’s as little flapping around in the drum as possible. You can do this by fastening the zippers. This applies especially to cycling jerseys (which you should also turn inside out), but even some cycling shorts have zips on the back.
4. Wash shorts in cold water
Now that your laundry is ready, it’s time to choose the right washing program. If you are like me, you’ll leave that to your wife. But if you ARE the wife, then I’m sorry on behalf of all men. Please help us choose the program that won’t ruin our cycling stuff.
Cycling clothes should be washed in cold water. In the world of laundry 30°C is considered cold. So men, find a program that says 30°C or less (some washing machines even have a snowflake sign beside it) and start the machine. And run away in case you did it wrong and something breaks.
Women, I’m sure you’ll know what to do better than me.
5. Use mild detergent
If I haven’t said it enough, let me repeat it. Cycling clothing is delicate. Therefore, you should use a mild detergent when washing them.
There are some detergents specific for sportswear, but if I’m completely honest, you don’t need them. A regular detergent will do the job just fine. Just be careful you don’t use any hardcore detergents or bleach.
6. Hang to dry
When your laundry is finally done and you are reunited with your precious clothes, it’s time to dry them.
It might be tempting to throw them in a dryer and bother with them later. However, cycling clothes don’t tolerate heat very well, so drying them in a machine might ruin them.
I advise you to hang them to dry. It will take much longer, but the material will remain intact and serve its purpose in the future.
You should wash cycling shorts after every use. Sweat absorbed in them can lead to the development of bacteria, with which bacterial infection and chafing are never far.
You can hand wash them when you’re under the shower after your ride. However, you should wash them every five rides in a washing machine.
When you wash them in a washing machine, make sure you wash them separately from other laundry as they might get damaged otherwise. Wash them turned inside out in cold water with a mild detergent.