When was the last time you clean your gym bag? With daily use, commute and carrying your stinky gym wear and Muay Thai gear, even the best gym bag needs a good wash from time to time. (See related articles: “Best Gym Bag for Muay Thai” and “Best Gym Bag for Muay Thai – Backpack Edition“) No matter how well ventilated your bag is, it is a hot spot for breeding germs and bacteria. If you bag is starting to stink, know that the stench is the odor of bacteria breeding. Your bag is susceptible to moisture from your drenched clothes and moist gear, elements from contact with the floor, changing bench or lockers, and pollutants like dust and rain.
Unfortunately, a majority of people don’t actually do anything about their gym bag cleanliness. Taking a few steps to care and maintain our gym bag can go a long way in keeping it sanitized, smelling fresh, prolonging the mileage and extending its lifespan.
Here are some tips on keeping your gym bag clean and fresh:
This is a no-brainer. Like almost everything, if you want to keep your bag clean, the best way is to wash it. Washing it regularly keeps the bag clean, sanitized and smelling good. This also lowers any risk of bacteria spreading among your gear and onto you.
There is no standard formula on how frequently you should wash your gym bag. Due to almost daily usage, I make an attempt to wash the bag once a month. If you have more than one gym bag, you can rotate among the bags so while you wash one, there is another one ready for use.
Before you toss it into the washing machine, check the care label on the bag to see if it is machine-washable and follow the instructions provided. The care label will also explain the right way to dry after washing and whether it is suitable to use a machine dryer and such. If a bag is not machine-washable, you can fill up a tub with water and let the bag soak for a bit. Let the bag dry thoroughly either out in the sun or dryer before use because moisture promotes bacteria growth.
There are several ways to wash a gym bag. Some people add vinegar or baking soda for a stubbornly dirty or smelly bag but a little mild soap or detergent will do the trick for general cleaning. Remember to give your bag a shake and clear everything out before washing to avoid water damage to any gear or equipment.
The next best thing to do is to give the bag (both inside and outside) a thorough cleaning with antibacterial disinfectant wipes. Doing this helps to reduce germs and bacteria which can cause bad odors. Alternatively, you can use a disinfectant spray -either off the shelf or homemade- to kill odor-causing bacteria quickly. For the best results, combine washing and disinfecting in between washes.
Separate Sweaty Clothes
After an hour of slogging at training, it can be so tempting to dump the sweaty gym clothes right into the bag and head for a good shower. Bad mistake. This is the fastest and surest way to breed an army of bacteria in the gym bag. This is further aggravated if you need to head back to work or somewhere after working out, burying the stank in the bag for hours before you have access to a washing machine.
To keep the sweaty clothes contained and separate from the rest of the items in your bag, you can use/re-use plastic bags or ziploc bags. For the more environmentally-conscious, nylon laundry bags are a good option.
Do NOT leave dirty laundry in your bag overnight. When you get home, you should take them out of your gym bag to air. If you leave them in the bag overnight, there is little doubt that your gym bag will soon start to pollute the air with bad odor. Blue cheese, rotten eggs, sewage spillage and skunk attack.
Avoid treating your bag as a storage and take your equipment and gear out to air each time you use it. Your gym bag needs a breather too from the daily hard work. Stuffing it into the storeroom or an unventilated area can trap the moisture and odor. It is important to leave the bag open and let it breathe.
Perform Regular Gear Maintenance
Gear maintenance is one of the most overlooked aspects of Muay Thai. It is a topic that is not part of any training curriculum in any gym as far as I am aware of. Keeping your gear sanitised can reduce the probability of unnecessary skin-related irritations or infections. And at least you won’t be pointed at for contributing to unwarranted gym stench. It is amazing how large an area of devastation the unpleasant stank of unwashed hand wraps can be sniffed out within a gym.
Wash your hand wraps frequently, give the shin guards a good wipe after each sparring and perform regular maintenance with your gloves. If you make the effort to perform proper maintenance, you won’t ever have to worry about unsavory smells. Simply take a few minutes after you train to do some cleaning and maintenance. This will ensure that you max out the lifespan of your gear.
For many Muay Thai and fitness enthusiasts, training is a major part of our daily routine. We sometimes forget the gym bag is as much a part of our training lifestyle as much as our training gear. With proper care and maintenance, you will always be blessed with a clean and fresh smelling gym bag. Life is all that better when everything looks and smells good. Train hard, train fresh.