15 Gross Things You Probably Never Knew About Your Gym Bag

You have probably heard on more than one occasion that the gym is far from the most sanitary place on the planet. Unfortunately, your gym bag isn’t much better — and it may be even worse than you thought. With help from NetDoctor and a couple other sources, here are 15 gross things you probably never knew about your gym bag.

1. Cleaning out your bag once a week may not be enough

Woman preparing gym bag for the day | gpointstudio/ iStock/ Getty Images

You may be one of many people who leave their gym clothes and shoes in the bag for a week and forget about it. This is actually the first big no-no for having a gym bag. “Your gym bag is where all your kit festers together, from hard working trainers to damp towels to sweaty socks and training gear it can be another breeding ground for germs and bacteria,” NetDoctor says.

Next: Something to consider …

2. Your shoes are especially filthy

Gym essentials | LightFieldStudios/ iStock/ Getty Images

“Our feet contain the highest concentration of sweat glands, which can create a hot and sweaty environment and the ideal atmosphere for fungus and bacteria to thrive,” NetDoctor says. If you aren’t diligent about letting your shoes air out, they can fester in your bag and put you at higher risk of getting athlete’s foot or having nail fungus.

Next: This is a big no-no …

3. Forgetting about your wet bathing suit is bad

Water aerobics | shironosov/ iStock/ Getty Images

“Mold and mildew love dark, moist places, so be sure to get those wet workout clothes, socks, bathing suits, and towels out of your bag ASAP,” Self Magazine tells us. Even if your gym bag comes with multiple compartments, you still need to take your wet clothes out when you get home and clean the bag thoroughly. (More on that topic on page 15.)

Next: While we’re on the subject …

4. Forgetting about your sweaty clothes is also bad

Sweating after a workout | FlamingoImages/ iStock/ Getty Images

In addition to letting bacteria settle into its fibers, sweaty clothes that are left in your gym bag for too long will make your bag smell awful. As NetDoctor tells us, research has found that polyester sportswear are more prone to harboring germs and really need to be washed immediately.

Next: This is a bit gross …

5. Your water bottle isn’t even safe

Refreshing after training | NicoPelon/ iStock/ Getty Images

Yes, even your water bottle isn’t safe in your gym bag. According to Treadmill Review, the average athlete’s water bottle contains 313,499 CFU (colony-forming units) per square centimeter. NetDoctor recommends washing a reusable bottle out daily.

Next: This makes things worse …

6. Leaving your bag in your hot car isn’t smart

Parked cars | welcomia/ iStock/ Getty Images

If you’re out running errands after you’ve been at the gym, your bag will probably be okay for a little bit. But leaving your bag in the trunk overnight after it has already been in the sun will do two things: Allow bacteria to manifest in your bag, and make your whole trunk smell foul.

Next: Something to keep in mind …

7. Be careful with flip-flops

Flip flops | Emmeci74/ iStock/ Getty Images

“Gym shower handles had seven times more bacteria than the average home kitchen sink,” Bustle tells us, adding that gym shower floors are covered with “hair (including pubic hair), sweat, fungi, mold, bacteria, and urine from the 62 percent of people who say they pee in the shower on a regular basis.” Long story short: Wear flip flops in the shower, and then put them in their own bag so all that nasty stuff doesn’t spread to the rest of your gym bag.  

Next: But wait, there’s more …

8. Your locker could make your bag germ-y

Gym locker | Wavebreakmedia/ iStock/ Getty Images

You already know you should put a towel down everywhere you sit in a gym locker room to avoid coming in contact with bacteria and fungus — and the same goes for putting your gym bag in a locker. Who knows if the person before you left their dirty sneakers or germ-y towel sitting in that same locker before you got there?

Next: It sounds excessive, but it’s the truth …

9. Your gym bag shouldn’t be on the gym floor

A young man sitting on the floor with a gym bag,| NiseriN/ iStock/ Getty Images

For starters, gyms typically don’t allow members to bring bags on the gym floor anyways. Bag either need to be locked up in the locker room or stored somewhere else safe — not carted around the workout area and taking up space. Plus, the gym floor itself is teaming with bacteria, so bringing your bag into that environment is asking for trouble.

Next: If you want to avoid getting sick, beware …

10. Your bag can carry flu germs on it

Flu season | Valeriy_G/ iStock/ Getty Images

“From sweat-covered machines, to grimy water fountains and questionable toilet seats, your average gym can be a breeding ground for bacteria and rapidly-spreading viruses, like the ones that cause the cold and flu,” Quick and Dirty Tips tells us. This should give you even more incentive to wipe down your bag if you’re hitting the gym during cold and flu season.

Next: One of the scariest things to come out of the gym …

11. You can get a staph infection

Bacteria Staphylococcus aureus on the surface of skin | Dr_Microbe/ iStock/ Getty Images

Long story short: If you have a cut or open wound, you do not want it exposed at the gym for risk of getting a staph infection. This goes for rummaging through your dirty gym bag as well: If you have cuts or open skin, cover them up before cleaning your gym bag.

Next: This piece of equipment is more disgusting than you imagined…

12. Yoga mats carry more germs than you realize

Yoga mats | Milkos/ iStock/ Getty Images

“Making skin contact with a dirty yoga mat covered in germs and bacteria can lead to skin infections, acne, toenail fungus and even transfer of the herpes virus and staph and strep infections in susceptible individuals,” MindyBodyGreen summarizes. If you don’t clean off your mat before you put it into your gym bag, those icky things will spread.

Next: A word of caution …

13. Your snacks aren’t safe in your bag

Eating an energy bar at the gym | Ridofranz/ iStock/ Getty Images

“Cheese sticks, fresh fruit, and energy drinks are perfect when you need to fuel up before or after a workout, but an apple core won’t smell very good after a week in your gym bag,” Self warns. You should also keep all food in safe containers so it isn’t exposed to whatever germs are making homes within your bag.

Next: Consider this …

14. Think carefully about what bags you use

Exercise mat and gym bag | illionaire/ iStock/ Getty Images

After hearing all of this, you may want to stock up your gym bag with plastic baggies to put your sweaty clothes and dirty shoes into post-workout. However, those tightly-zipped bags just contribute to the growth of bacteria on your gym clothes. Consider one of these reusable bags instead.

Next: Last but not least …

15. Your method for cleaning your bag may not be effective

Cleaning products | Milkos/ iStock/ Getty Images

A casual wipe down with disinfecting wipes may not be enough to really get your gym bag clean. Dr Lisa Ackerley tells NetDoctor your gym bag “should be washed regularly on a high temperature (over 60°C) to kill any germs. If it is not possible to wash your bag in the machine, use an antibacterial spray. The gym bag should also be turned inside out and thoroughly cleansed on the inside with an anti-bacterial wipe. Let it dry before filling.”

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