Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bikram Yoga laundry tips

If you have practiced for a long time and have participated in challenges, you may be familiar with the Bikram phenomenon of... smelly clothes. When I hadn't participated in a challenge yet, I always though: "Don't these people wash their clothes properly?", but during the challenge I changed my mind.

On week three of my first Bikram yoga challenge my clothes started smelling. I was horrified, because we all now what 'smelly' means: bacteria or other organisms! EEEEEEeeeekk! After discovering that my usual washing method obviously wasn't cutting it anymore, I was on a mission and I have since solved the smell problem. All my Bikram clothes are as good as new :) Let me summarize...

My usual washing method... extra rinses (6 months practice before the smell came):
- one rinse cycle with warm water, so most of the sweat get's rinsed out before detergent is added
- one washing cycle with warm/hot water mixed, using regular detergent or Tide with Febreeze (just covered the smell... unsuccessfully, I might add)
- extra rinse to avoid detergent residue buildup

My extra thorough washing method... hot water and double washes:
- as above, but do two washing cycles. First with a little detergent, then with regular amount of detergent
- use hot water
- result: clothes smelled better, but after sweating in them again, the nasty smell came back :(

Extra thorough with white vinegar and borax:
- as above, but add white vinegar to the last rinse (you can put it into the fabric softener compartment if your washer has one) and add borax powder to washing cycles
- use about 1-2 cups of vinegar for a small/medium load
- result: clothes smelled better, but a little bit like vinegar... not sure if the borax did anything... in some fabrics the odor was still present and the odor came back immediately after sweating in the clothes again... UGH!

FINALLY, salvation in form of Sagrotan Hygienespueler (imported from Germany)!!!

This is a laundry disinfectant, that I used all the time when I lived in Germany. It is used in the last rinse, so you put it into the fabric softener department of your washing machine. I'm not sure how it works (alcohol?), but it definitely is not bleach and apparently it kills 99.9% of all bacteria and fungi even in cold water. I used to use this in Germany to wash underwear/swimwear that cannot be washed in hot water and thus, is prone to be a breeding ground for bacteria etc.

So how did it work for the yoga smell? AMAZINGLY! My Bikram clothes are as good as new! Seriously, they smell nice and fresh and the smell is not only covered up. I know because I sweated in them a couple of times and the smell still hasn't come back, squeeeee! The bacteria are DEAD! I plan on using this every couple of washes :)

Thank you so much to my mom and friends who sent me this! I will be importing this from Germany whenever I go or have people visiting, because I have not been able to find a real disinfectant laundry detergent (that is not bleach-based) here in the US.

PS: I have since seen a sports detergent at Lucy's (athletic apparel for women). I have not tried it and I do not know if it really is a disinfectant, but I might when I run out of the magic stuff from Germany. Although... I might just stick with Sagrotan, because I know it works like a charm! Anyway, here's the Lucy stuff.


  1. Another thing you could try:
    Put your clothes in the freezer (perferably inside a plastic bags) for 24 hours.
    The cold kills all bacteria.

    Works for shoes as well - perfectly.
    No more smelly shoes :-)

    (but make sure clothes or shoes are dry)

  2. For me too, Sagrotan Hygienesp├╝ler was the only one that helped against old sweat and smell in clothes :-).

  3. Hi Eva! Yes, I've found that even good washing practices can't keep the smell away. After a couple of washings the clothes are in need of a SERIOUS disinfecting... Love Sagrotan Hygienespueler <3

    (Maybe I should write to Sagrotan customer service and ask why they don't market this product in the US.)

  4. Update: This is what works best for me at the moment...

    as soon as you can after class:

    - hang up yoga clothes to dry (if you will not wash them immediately)
    - toss them in the hamper only after they have completely dried

    when you get ready to wash:

    - toss clothes in washer and run a rinse (or soak) cycle with warm water (I use no or very little detergent in this one)
    - after rinse cycle, put in laundry detergent and wash on a heavy duty (I mix hot and warm water for this)
    - do another rinse cycle
    - done.

    every couple of washes:
    - rinse cycle
    - washing cycle w/ detergent
    - 2nd washing cycle w/ detergent (heavy duty cycle)
    - rinse cycle

    Hanging clothes outside in sunshiney, windy weather after washing will make them extra fresh!

    The double washing routine will get out as much or even more of the stink out as all the other tricks I've tried (vinegar, borax, Sagrotan). After a double wash routine, I can get away with one wash and extra rinses for a couple of washes.

    I end up doing the double wash thing about once per month.

    Hope this helps!

    1. Hi! This post has been helpful because I've been getting bad breakouts on my back, and I believe it's because of practicing Bikram every day. How often do you wash your yoga clothes? I can't afford to wash my clothes/towels every day and so I hang them to dry and them put them in the washer once a week. I've also just recently switched from cotton tank tops to polyester/spandex tops so as to not harbor sweat. What do you do? Do you have any tips/advice? I'm just getting frustrated by looking around class with everyone having clear backs except me!

    2. Hi Anonymous!

      Yay for practicing every day! What I do now is get in the shower with my yoga clothes on (in the studio). While I shampoo my hair, I let the water run over my shorts and top. Before I rinse my shampoo/conditioner out of my hair, I take off the clothes, rinse them again in clear water, then squeeze the water out and put in a plastc bag to carry home.

      Make sure you hag them up to dry immediately when you get home! Bacteria love humidity, so sitting wet in a plasic bag for a longer time is the worst you can do!

      Oh, I just remembered: do you have long hair? Do you use condtioner? Conditioner might be clogging your pores if your wet conditioned hair hangs on your back. While in the shower, I put it up in a loose bun. After the shower, I put a towel over my shoulders. My 'back-ne' really improved after I started this :)

      It's been working really well for me :) I would love to hear if it will work for you.

  5. Hi Simmm! Thanks so much for replying. I wish we had showers at our studio but alas, we do not. Otherwise I would probably do the same thing you do...sounds smart. Right now I change right after class into dry clothes and race home (about 20 minutes) to hang up my wet clothes. Up until recently I haven't been rinsing them in clear water first; just hang em straight up, and I think that may be part of my issue. I'm thinking maybe the bacteria/dirt is drying into the clothing? I thought it would be washed out in my once-a-week laundry load, but I'm hoping the rinsing will make a difference.

    What do you do with your wet towels? Do you rinse them and hang them out to dry as well?

  6. Oh, no showers is unfortunate!

    The problem with bacteria is that they thrive and multiply best in wet & warm conditions. That's why putting wet clothes in a plastic bag and forgetting about them is a recipe for STINK.

    I think your clothes would benefit from a thorough rinse in clear water. Squeeze as much water out as you can before you hang them up, so they will dry quicker.

    In theory, bacteria should get washed out in the washing machine, but it's never 100% unless you have boiling hot water in your machine.

    With my towel, I just hang it up to dry as soon as I can. I wish I could rinse it first, but I shy away from it due to the hassle. Also, I don't want it to look like I wash my laundry in the yoga studio's showers haha! But yeah, ideally, the towel should also be rinsed.

    PS: Do you use cold water? I use warm and I think the sports wear can handle warm. Hot would be best to get stink out, but it will possibly damage the elastic fibers in sports wear.

    Happy leap day :)

  7. Loved this post... thank you for tip on the laundry disinfectant! I've never seen anything like it in the US. On Amazon I found a similar product made by a brand that I recognized from the UK. Will let you know how well it works!

    1. Nice find! I know this brand from Germany as well. In fact, judging by the umlaut on the label, it seems like this bottle was produced for the German market. I hope it works out for you!

  8. Hi great comment chain! This will help me a lot. I'm concerned that if I use hot or warm water with my yoga clothes & towels that the fabric will break down or the colors will fade. Any tips on how to avoid this like Simm asked?