Laundry. Specifically, washing (and drying) your cycling kit.
Seems ultra-simple, right?
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Umm… Turns out with cycling kit, it can be a little more complicated. In addition to skin irritation—more on that in a sec—I was out on a ride yesterday and got caught in the rain. A guy whizzed past me, and as I watched him interval his way into the distance, I noticed something that made me laugh out loud. As his shorts got wet from the rain, and he moved on the saddle, his shorts were literally dripping massive amounts of white foam.
That second rinse cycle? Yeah, it’s there for a reason. (Apologies for laughing, but this was an exceptionally hilarious example of a laundry issue.)
When I travel, laundry is important, but my laundry habits were highly variable depending on each situation. No wonder my skin was constantly pissed.
As it turns out, your laundry habits might be what’s causing skin “issues” when you ride. But thankfully, there are a few key habits that you can start to alleviate a whole lot of on-bike problems with minimal fuss.
Here’s what you need to know about washing your cycling kit
- Muddy kit? Hose it down first to remove most of the visible grime.
- Turn your shorts inside out when you wash them! This should be self-explanatory but often gets forgotten. When your chamois isn’t facing out, a lot of gross-ness can get left behind in one wash and rinse cycle. Again, if your shorts are super muddy, rinse them first to get the mud mostly off the outside, but always wash so the chamois gets the most attention.
- Use hot water, or at least warm water! Let’s kill bacteria and dissolve more of that grime, please.
- Consider sensitive skin detergent. I like an unscented, dye-free sensitive skin detergent, personally. Some people don’t need it, but I find cheaper detergents tend to make my skin break out. When you’re wearing lycra and sweating and have just shaved your legs, it’s already a recipe for disaster. Don’t make it worse by adding in perfumed detergent that may still be in your shorts.
- Speaking of that, double rinse. I love the double rinse cycle. Gets everything a little cleaner and gets rid of any extra soap. Again, not the most energy efficient, but if you truly have skin issues, this is a big one.
- Sweaty smell that won’t go away? Double wash with a half cup of white vinegar in the first load along with your regular detergent, then do another regular wash cycle.
- Use the dryer. Some people really hate using the dryer on their shorts (see #8 for an alternative) but if you’re OK with it (and I personally am), using the dryer is the best way to make sure all of the bacteria that’s hanging out in your gross shorts is eradicated.
- Go green and hang dry, but make sure you do it where sunlight hits your shorts. In writing Saddle, Sore, I learned that UV rays can kill bacteria, so hang outside or in a window when possible. Drying in a cold, dark area takes forever and gives bacteria that survived the wash cycle the perfect chance to breed before your next ride.
Here’s a question: Would a good person chase this guy down and let him know his shorts were foamy? I opted not to, but I struggled with it! In the end, I figured they would eventually stop foaming as more rain hit them, and hopefully, it was a one-time mistake on his part. Want to know more about all things cycling, saddle sore and nether regions related? (You know you do.) Check out “Saddle, Sore: Ride Comfortable, Ride Happy” (the book answers a ton of your most awkward questions!)