How to Guides

How to wash padded bike shorts?

Bike shorts are special performance garments with cutting-edge fabric technology to enhance a bike rider’s performance. The padding is the main selling point of these shorts, ensuring comfort during long rides. But as with all fabrics, they require washing. Many people are afraid to wash their bike shorts because they are afraid they will ruin the shorts. They are an expensive investment after all. But many myths and misconceptions surround this topic. Washing performance garments is nothing special. It’s the same as washing any other clothing in your wardrobe. However, taking small steps before washing your shorts will increase the life of your shorts.

In this article, we will discuss the steps to wash padded bike shorts so you have a clean pair of shorts without causing damage to them.

Do padded bike shorts require a special type of washing?

No! Padded bike shorts don’t require any kind of special washing. The advancements in fabric technology not only improved the performance of sports garments but also the way they are maintained. Today, sports garments are made for standard washing and don’t require any special treatment. You don’t have to use special detergents or sports wash as you may have heard. All detergents are more or less alike chemically. In fact, the quality of water affects your shorts more than the detergent. It’s just that if you want your shorts to last longer, then there are a few steps that can help you.

How often should padded bike shorts be washed?

Padded bike shorts or any sports garment for that matter should be washed often. The best is to wash your shorts immediately after use. But that is not always possible so you should do it as soon as possible. Do your best to avoid leaving dirty shorts for 5 days or something. The bacterial growth that happens all this time causes the shorts to develop a foul smell. The enzymes by the bacteria also accelerate the breakdown of the fabric.

Many people believe that washing the shorts frequently wears them out faster. People falsely accuse agitation to cause the wear. But it is actually the dirt stuck within the knits that grind against the fabric causing damage to it. Washing the shorts prevents abrasion from dirt. Wash your shorts often.

Steps for washing padded bike shorts

The following are the steps to wash your padded shorts in a way that they remain clean and last longer.


Don’t just throw your bike shorts in the washing machine and turn the knobs or press buttons or whatever. Taking a few steps before washing your shorts can greatly increase their life. First, if your shorts have any zips or Velcro straps, you should close them. Leaving zips and Velcro straps open causes them to rub against the fabric during washing causing abrasion. In some cases, they can also tear the fabric ruining your shorts.

If you have used your shorts for off-road riding and there is a lot of dirt sticking to them, then rinse them first. Putting the shorts in the washing machine with the dirt still on will have the same effect mentioned earlier. The dirt will grind against the fabric causing abrasion. Using a strain releaser before washing will give a much better wash and keep your shorts looking like new. Synthetic garments like bike shorts are color-fast. But it is still a better idea to wash your shorts with like color garments so that the garments don’t bleed color onto the shorts.

Use cold water

High water temperature irreversibly damages the fabric. It can even cause the elastic in the waist and the leg grippers to melt slightly. The fabric is also damaged which affects its compression and moisture-wicking properties. The fit of the shorts is ruined as the compression is reduced. Besides, modern detergents are also designed to dissolve better in cold water. Do not wash your shorts in hot water.

No handwash required

There used to be a time when sports garments required handwash because machine wash was too rough for them. But that is not the case anymore. Modern washing machines have too many cycle options. You can change your cycle settings to determine how harsh or soft you want the wash to be depending on the type of clothes. You can use the low spin option to protect the fabric of the shorts.

Modern machines also use less water. Just put your shorts or bibs in a mesh bag if you have a top loader machine with a central agitator. The suspenders of bib shorts are especially vulnerable as they can wrap around the agitator resulting in stretching or tearing.

Use less detergent

Instructions on detergent packing often overstate the amount of detergent required. I wonder how it benefits them, but you can figure that out if you know anything. The point is, you should reduce the amount of detergent you are already probably using. This is true especially for liquid detergents as they are highly concentrated.

Also, avoid using softeners. A softener leaves a soft-feeling residue on the fabric. Not only do these residues cause abrasion but they also damage the elastane in the fabric that gives bike shorts their stretch. Another thing is to NOT use bleach at all, even if it doesn’t contain chlorine at all. Bleach damages the fabric as well. After the wash, use extra water to rinse the shorts to completely get rid of any dirt or detergent left in the fabric.

Hang to dry

After you have finished washing your shorts, hang them outside to dry naturally. Never use a dryer to dry the shorts. Hot air damages the fabric the same way as hot water. Besides, if there is any oil or dirt left in the fabric during washing, the dryer would bake them into the fabric. Don’t ruin your beautiful bike shorts just to save some time.

Final Thoughts

Padded bike shorts are an essential piece of sports garment for bike riders. But like with every garment, they also get dirty and require washing. Many people are afraid of putting their padded shorts in the washing machine because they think it will damage their expensive shorts. Padded bike shorts nowadays are made for regular washing so you shouldn’t be afraid. Just rinse the shorts before putting them in the washing machine, otherwise, the dirt will cause abrasion on the fabric. Don’t use hot water as it damages the elastane in the fabric and use less detergent than use normally do. Softeners and bleach damage the fabric of the shorts so a big no. After you are done, hang them outside to dry naturally. Using a dryer would damage the fabric just like hot water. No special detergents or treatments. Just wash often or the shorts will smell.