How to Guides

How To Wash Bike Shorts With Chamois?

Chamois is padding sewn into the bike shorts between the legs for cushioning and protection. It increases comfort during long rides. But this special piece of padding makes the washing process intimidating as if the compression fabric wasn’t enough. Bike shorts aren’t cheap. These performance fabrics are heavy on the wallet. People treat them as investments and no one likes to ruin their investment. The most common fear is that washing would damage the chamois and the fabric of the shorts. Many people, then, use their bike shorts as much as they can without washing until it starts smelling like a rotting corpse. But washing your chamois bike shorts is nothing to be afraid of. This article discusses the steps to wash bike shorts with chamois without harming them.

Is machine wash harmful to chamois?

With advancements in fabric technology, manufacturers have not only increased the performance of their fabrics but have also made them more maintenance-friendly. There is no need to handwash your padded bike shorts. Most people believe that the agitation caused by the washing machine is harmful to the fabric. But modern washing machines give gentle cycle options to handle fragile fabrics. So the washing machine is not causing any damage to the fabrics, it’s the other habits of the people washing them that may be to blame.

You can just treat your bike shorts like your normal laundry and wash them with your daily wear. You don’t need any special treatment for the shorts or the chamois. However, you should wash your shorts with the same color clothing. Even though they are color-fast, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Steps to wash bike shorts with chamois

By following the following steps, you should be able to wash your padded shorts safely and effectively.

Before the wash

Rinsing your padded shorts or any fabric is an important step. You can’t just toss your shorts into the washing machine like that. The purpose of rinsing is to get rid of the dirt particles on the fabric. If these dirt particles are not washed off, they grind against the fabric and the chamois. They cause abrasion on the fabric and micro-ruptures on the chamois.

The second step is to close all the buttons or zips that the shorts may have. Open buttons and zips rub against the fabric during washing and cause abrasion and even tear the fabric sometimes. The result is a shortened lifespan.

If you have bib shorts and a washing machine with a central agitator, put the bib shorts in a mesh pouch before tossing them in the machine. Otherwise, the suspenders will tangle around the agitator and will either be overstretched or torn apart. If you happen to have stains on your shorts, use a stain remover before washing and your shorts will come out as good as new after the wash.

Do not use hot water

High temperature has a deteriorating effect on the chemical composition of most substances. Needless to say, hot water causes irreversible damage to the fabric and the chamois of your shorts. It damages the foam inside the chamois and deteriorates the gel structure in a gel chamois. As a result, the chamois loses its performance. Hot water also melts the elastane in the shorts a bit, causing the shorts to lose their stretch and compression. Do not wash your shorts in hot water unless you have scabies or a similar parasite problem. Besides, most detergents today are made to work better in cold water.

Use less detergent

Speaking of detergents, you are probably using more than you should. Detergent manufacturers tend to overstate how much detergent is required. Why they do that is for you to figure out. But the point is, you are probably using more detergent than you should, especially, liquid detergents which are highly concentrated. Do not use bleach for your bike shorts, which means you should use bleach-free detergents as well. Ordinary detergents work fine with sportswear and you don’t have to use sportswash. The quality of the water you use has more effect on the fabric than the detergent since detergents are all more or less chemically the same. Just use less detergent. You will be surprised by what a small amount of detergent can do.

No fabric softeners

Do not use fabric softeners on your bike shorts. Fabric softeners leave residue on the fabric which makes the fabric feel soft. But this residue has the same effect as dirt, that is, it grinds against the chamois and the fabric just like dirt. Furthermore, the softener residue also harms the chamois and the fabric at a chemical level. Softener residue has been known to damage the elastane in the shorts causing the shorts to lose their stretch and compression. Softeners can damage both gel and foam chamois.

Use extra water

Most washing machines have an extra rinse cycle. Use it! Using extra water to rinse the shorts after washing ensures that any leftover detergent or dirt washes out.

Hang to dry

Do not use any artificial means to dry your shorts after you have washed them, especially, a heat drier. Hot air has the same effect as hot water. It damages the chamois and the fabric irreversibly. Just hang them in the open air to dry naturally unless it’s raining. Hang them inside then.

Do I need to turn the shorts inside out?

A lot of articles on the internet will tell you to turn your shorts inside out so that the chamois is more exposed. Personally, I don’t think that matters unless you are handwashing your shorts. In the washing machine, the shorts are completely submerged in water so it doesn’t make any difference. Yes, you can turn the shorts inside-out when rinsing them before washing so that the dirt is rinsed off properly. Once you submerge the shorts in the water, inside outside, it’s all the same. Since there is no harm in doing so, you can do as you please.

How often should I wash bike shorts with a chamois?

After every ride! Yes, you should wash your bike shorts after every ride. The chamois is a fertile breeding ground for bacteria. Apart from causing diseases, the enzymes from these bacteria along with body oils accelerate the deterioration of the chamois and the fabric. The bacteria also cause a foul smell. Don’t leave your bike shorts in the laundry basket for 5 days after an intense ride, especially, during hot days.

Final Thoughts

Washing bike shorts with chamois may seem intimidating because of the chamois and the special fabric but it isn’t. It’s natural to have a fear of ruining your favorite bike shorts considering they aren’t cheap either. But washing is necessary and not washing the shorts causes more damage than good to them. You can easily wash your shorts safely and effectively with a few simple steps. Rinse before washing, avoid hot water, use less detergent, no bleach and fabric softeners, and no artificial drying. You don’t need handwashing and sports washing. Wash often to prolong the life of your shorts.