This time of year has many families avoiding the trunk or back seat due to stinky shoes and gym bags leftover from fall sports, dance class or gymnastics. But, it’s not just the smell you should be concerned about – bacteria live on sweaty clothes and the bottom of shoes.

The best way to keep your gym bag clean is to clean it! Follow the care instruction tag on your bag and wash at least once a month. In between washes, give your bag a weekly once-over with antibacterial wipes.

The other trick is to separate. Keep damp or sweaty clothes in a moisture-locking bag away from other items. A study at the University of Arizona found that an average of more than 421,000 bacteria live on the outside of shoes, with more than 2,000 bacteria on the inside. Keep those bacteria from contaminating the rest of your stuff by storing your shoes in a dedicated compartment.

Here are a few tips for controlling odor and bacteria:

• Tea bags kill odors. You can kill odors by dropping a few unused tea bags into your gym bag — and sneakers too — and let them sit overnight. Then remove them in the morning.

• Dryer sheets. Place a dryer sheet in your bag and leave it in there to help absorb any smells. Replace it once its fresh scent fades.

• White vinegar. Detergent sometimes leaves your gym bag and clothes a little funky. Add a half-cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle to get it really clean. There are detergents on the market specific to killing bacteria.

• Essential oils. Also, between washes, try filling a spray bottle with water and a few drops of essential oil, like tea tree or lavender. Mist the bag, then let it dry.

• Fresh air. Let the fabric air out or be in the sun, but most importantly don’t leave your sweaty clothes and shoes in there after a workout.

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