Degerm Your Gym Bag

If you’re tossing warm, damp gear in your gym bag after working out, you could be giving millions of germs a free ride home with you.


If youre tossing warm, damp gear in your gym bag after working out, you could be giving millions of germs a free ride home with you. “Its the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive,” says Kelly A. Reynolds, PhD, a microbiologist and associate professor of public health at the University of Arizona. The results could sideline you with everything from colds and flu to a nasty staph infection. Dont throw in the towel, though. Heres how to sanitize the worst gym-bag-germ offenders.

Workout clothes and swimsuits
Why theyre germy: You ball them up—still damp with sweat or pool water—toss them into your bag, and leave them in there for several hours or even days.

The cleanup: Put clothes in a plastic bag or stash them in a separate mesh pocket, then wash them as soon as you can. No time for laundry? At least hang them to dry so bacteria and mold dont multiply.

Water bottle
Why its germy: Those with pull-up tops are the worst offenders; if you use your hands to open them, you transfer germs into the little crevices around the spout—and into your mouth.

The cleanup: Avoid touching the spout by pulling up the top with your teeth. And after each use, wash your bottle in the dishwasher on high heat. Or avoid the issue altogether and get a screw-cap bottle.

Gym bag
Why its germy: In addition to putting all that icky stuff inside it, you often put the bag down on the gym or bathroom floor, which is home to scores of creepy crawlies.

The cleanup: Regularly empty your entire bag, and air it out. Wash it weekly in the hottest water it will take or wipe it down with a disinfecting wipe. And dont put it directly on the gym or bathroom floor—hang it up or put it on a towel on the floor.

Yoga mat
Why its germy: You sweat your way through sun salutations, then roll up your wet mat, carry it home, and forget about it until next weeks class.

The cleanup: After class, clean it with a disinfecting wipe. (Keep a few in a zip-top bag in your yoga bag.) Or dry it with a clean towel before rolling it up, then wipe it down when you get home.

Flip-flops
Why theyre germy: You wear them in the shower, sauna, and locker room—all places teeming with fungi and bacteria.

The cleanup: Put them in a plastic bag before popping them in your gym bag. (That goes for your sneakers, too.) When you get home, spritz them with a disinfecting cleanser and let them dry completely before repacking. (Be sure to let your sneakers air out, as well.)
Michele Bender
Last Updated: April 25, 2008

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