My life is one big washing pile. My bathroom is filled with it. There are piles of it in my bedroom. I haven't seen the bottom of my (generously sized) washing basket in months.
There are a few reasons for this. For starters, my partner is currently working a labouring job which means his clothes are covered in dust, paint and god knows what else on a daily basis (chore-wise: he looks after our sick cat, I do the washing, it works). Secondly, I suffer from severe night sweats (attractive, I know) so it's rare I can wear a pair of pyjamas for two nights in a row. Thirdly, I do a fair bit of exercise so, at least three days a week, I'll sweat my way through a set of workout clothes, which of course necessitates yet another wash.
So when I came across a brand selling "workout gear you don't have to wash", I was intrigued. Not washing my gym kit would theoretically cut down my washing load by a third, which would not only be better for the environment but would also leave me a lot more time for other terribly important downtime activities, like watching reruns of '90s BBC detective dramas.
The brand is American-based Ably. It's an athleisure and workout gear brand whose apparel is made with natural fabric technology called Filium, which repels liquid, stains and odours. They promise that you can "literally wear [your Ably shirt] to the gym every day for a month and it'll still smell new". And if your workout gear doesn't smell, then you don't have to wash it, right? Right.
I was sceptical, to say the least. So I decided to try it out.
Tbf, there isn't a huge amount of choice in the way of gym kit on Ably's website: three pairs of tracksuit bottoms, a handful of booty shorts and some tops. In fact, Ably specialises more in day-to-day wear. Its 'thing' is conventional cotton basics, ie. don’t come here looking for Molly Goddard dupes. Somewhat frustratingly, there are no leggings or sports bras, which I feel like most women who value not getting hit in the face with an errant boob choose to wear to the gym. Nevertheless, I select some tracksuit trousers and a vest top and we go from there.
The clothes feel nice, expensive. I do a yoga workout to kick things off. I get a little sweaty, but nothing OTT. The material and the design lend themselves nicely to the yoga moves and, when I give my clothes a whiff at the end of the sesh, they smell exactly the same as when I took them out of the packaging an hour earlier. In fact, I spill my dinner down the trousers later on and not only does the stain not take, the strong spices smell doesn't stick either. I could get used to this.
I’m at the gym and wearing my Ably outfit again. Because the clothes are made of cotton, they feel rather heavier and warmer than my usual workout wear. I assume the Filium tech only works with cotton and not Lycra but since odour and sweat are going to be repelled, the material won't matter right?
And so I set off on my workout, 30 minutes of cardio followed by 30 minutes of weights. By the end of the cardio, I have, as usual, turned the colour of a tomato and I'm sweating like Theresa May on Brexit day. My clothing feels a little damp but it certainly isn't demonstrating the spectacular sweat patches one would expect from cotton in similar situations.
One thing I notice very quickly is how much I've been taking the moisture wicking capabilities of normal sportswear for granted. The double whammy of wearing a top which doesn't wick moisture away from your skin and repels sweat from its own material means my back is really, really sweaty. And the sweat feels trapped. I'm hotter than I would be normally too – especially on my lower half, thanks to the heavier cotton of the trackies.
Removing the clothes at the end of the workout, I scrunch them up and shove them at the bottom of my bag only to find that, when I pull them out at home, they're a little crumpled but otherwise in mint condition. They smell the same as they did yesterday, they're dry and almost certainly ready for another few rounds in the ring. Witchcraft.
Back at the gym. It's 10am on a Saturday morning. Who am I? Anyway – my Ably stuff still smells good and looks good. I don't feel gross or self-conscious. And things progress much the same way as the previous day. I get hot, and realise I probably should have got the shorts for the gym. Twenty minutes after my workout though, the clothes are clean and dry, ready for another day.
Ably is not lying, these clothes really, truly don't need washing. I mean eventually sure, I'd chuck them in the washing machine, but I am fully confident I could go another week of sweat-fest workouts in the same outfit without starting to smell and upset my fellow gym-goers.
The only trouble is, I'm not sure the cotton is best suited for the hot and sweaty stuff. Yoga: yes. Pilates: yes. Weights: no problem. Thirty minutes running on the treadmill: not ideal. Also, as there are no sports bras, I am still washing one of those for every workout – although obviously this is a lot less material than I was washing before. So my verdict? Ably is brill for the gentler stuff, less so for your HIIT class. It will 100% help me cut down on washing, though, which is truly excellent news.