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How to Get Mud Stains Out of Clothes

Mud runs and obstacle races are a fun way to mix up your workout. Not so fun? Dealing with your super-dirty clothes afterwards. You probably know how to get mud stains out of clothes when it's just a spot here and there. But dealing with race wear that is completely covered in mud, grass stains, and more is a totally different ball game. (BTW, this is the only workout you need to train for an obstacle race.)

Above all, experts recommend not wearing your absolute favorite workout outfit to one of these races. "Mud is one of the toughest stains to remove, so I would highly recommend wearing clothes that you're perfectly comfortable never seeing again," says Dan Miller, founder and CEO of Mulberrys Garment Care. "That said, there are steps you can take to increase the chances that they can be salvaged." (Love the gear in our video? Shop similar tanks and capris from SHAPE Activewear.) 

Choose your fabrics strategically.

When it comes to stain removal, not all fabrics are created equal. "Polyester and polyester/elastane blends are very popular in activewear as are cotton and cotton blends," says Jennifer Ahoni, Tide senior scientist. "While you should choose what you feel most comfortable in, I'd recommend finding something with synthetic fibers like polyester or a polyester blend, as mud and dirt tend to stick to them less than to natural fibers like cotton."

Stick with dark colors.

"Look for technical fabrics, typically synthetic blends, that come in heather grays or printed patterns that use darker tones," says Merin Guthrie, founder of Kit, a custom digital dressmaker for women and an expert in fabrics. "Any time you have a heather, it creates an optical illusion that helps hide stains. Darker colors are overall a better choice because they've spent longer soaking in dye before you purchase them. "When you over-dye something, which is what you are doing when you end up in mud pits, that mud dye is going on top of the other dye. Basically, the more dye in a fabric already, the better it will stand up to the mud."

Rinse your clothes right after the race.

Once you've completed the mud-covered photo op (let's be real, that's one of the best parts of the race!), brush off any big pieces of mud with your hands and try rinsing your clothes right away, suggests Lauren Haynes, a cleaning expert at Star Domestic Cleaners. "My advice is while you are still covered in mud, find a shower, a hosing-off station, or a nearby lake—there is probably at least one of these water sources near the race track. Give your clothes a good rinse inside and out, and you will definitely minimize later washing efforts and mess at home."

Rinse and throw in the wash ASAP: "If you wait any longer than 24 hours, it will make it very difficult to remove all of the mud," Miller says.

Spring for sports detergent.

Unless you went for white activewear, bleaching your muddy clothes probably isn't a great option—although there are some color-safe bleaches out there if you want to go that route. Instead, experts recommend selecting a detergent that's meant for really dirty clothes. "Detergents that are higher in alkalinity will be more effective," Miller says. "Alkaline solutions break down naturally occurring matter such as sweat, blood, and some compounds found in mud." These detergents are often marketed as sports detergents, but a quick search for alkaline detergents is the easiest way to find one.

Wash in warm water.

"Wash muddy or dirty clothes in the warmest water the garment's care label allows," Ahoni says. This allows for a deeper clean while still protecting the fabric's fibers from getting too hot. Ahoni also suggests washing your super-dirty pieces separately from any other clothing, since the mud could transfer onto other pieces during the washing process.

Do a spot check before drying.

Make sure you're happy with your stain removal efforts before sticking your activewear in the dryer. "Just as clay bakes in a kiln, any mud on your clothes will bake in the dryer, making it nearly impossible to remove," Ahoni says. If you see remaining stains, repeat the wash until stains are removed, then dry.

 

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