Commuting 101: How to stay fresh and clean at work

If you work in an office place where showing up to work sweaty and smelly isn’t exactly encouraged, this can be a major deterrent to commuting by bike. Especially with the summer months upon us, getting cleaned up once you’ve arrived at the work place is important and necessary. If you actually have showers and other facilities then you’ve got it easy, however for most of us we have to clean up sans shower.

Below are a few tips for getting cleaned up and fresh once you’ve arrived via bicycle to your office.

  1. Wear the right clothes – I’ve written before about just wearing your normal clothes, however if you sweat a good bit and need to wear a suit and tie at the office then that’s probably not the best route. You can go for some wicking materials and other bike specific clothing that will help the swear evaporate off your body quickly and keep you cool. It will also keep your office clothing clean and dry.
  2. Have the essential toiletries on hand – You basic necessities such as deodorant, hair products, etc are obvious. But also bring along a few things specific to getting ready after a bike commute. Flushable moisture wipes are a must to wipe yourself down and clean off the perspiration. Also, wrinkle releaser spray is great for your office clothes if they were folded up in your bag on the way in.
  3. Give yourself time to cool off – Towards the last five to ten minutes of your commute in, slow down and take it easy. Give yourself enough time for your heart rate to drop and to stop perspiring. Once you’ve arrived to the office finish cooling down so your clean up will “stick” and you won’t continue to perspire once you’ve cleaned up and changed.
  4. Keep your commuter cleanup kit at the office – Consider keeping your toiletries, wipes and other items at the office so you don’t have to cart them back and forth every day. Also, although it takes a bit of forethought, consider driving into the office on Mondays and taking in all your clothes for that week so you won’t have to worry about forgetting something each day or having your clothes rumpled from being stuffed in your bag.

What are you tricks to staying fresh and clean at the office?

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0 thoughts on “Commuting 101: How to stay fresh and clean at work”

  1. Reuben says:

    Find ways to keep your gear off your body. Bags that hang off your bike will help you sweat less than bags that hang off you (like backpacks).

    Now to totally contradict what I just wrote, a family member bought me a *foldy thing* made by Eagle Creek Travel Gear that allows me to actually fold my work pants, shirt, and tie instead of just stuffing it into a bag. It ends up being larger than panniers so I use a backpack instead. It works out really well for me (I’m one of THOSE that has a shower, so I really don’t worry about sweat too much…).

  2. joel says:

    “the last five to ten minutes of your commute in…” hmm, kind of a problem when the commute in only lasts 10 min. Unfortunately during the summer here (Baltimore) 30 sec outside is enough to make you nasty. I REALLY wish I had a shower at work. Since I don’t, I usually just sit in my office with the fan on full blast for ~30 min doing email etc before putting on real clothes.

  3. Dylan says:

    Showering before you leave the house helps a lot with stink issues. I have a short 3.5 mile ride, so I ride in my work clothes. I do keep a backup shirt in my office, just incase I start to smell (I’ve only had to use it once). Baby wipes and reapplying my deodorant have been sufficient. I’ll also agree that getting your bag off of your body and on to your bike is important, even for very short trips, especially as it gets more humid out.

  4. Matt says:

    My commute is only five miles and I’m not a particularly sweaty guy. Most of the time, I shower at home and fold my work clothes (wool trousers, pressed cotton shirts, tie, undies, socks) into a large pannier (I use an Ortlieb Bike Shopper) so they’re not all crunched up, ride in, and change in a bathroom, mopping off neck, armpits and washing face. This works except for the sweaty days in July and August when I will ride in and shower at work.

    Using panniers rather than backpack or messenger bag helps keep from getting too sweaty. Also, I tend to ride at a fairly modest pace to work, a little harder going home. I do get overtaken but that’s been my whole cycling life!

    You can ride in complete dress clothing and be comfortable but it takes the right weather conditions. We get those here, but not a lot. Everyone’s commute is different, everyone’s got different dress expectations and facilities at work, everyone’s answer will be a bit different.

  5. adamb says:

    Lot’s of good input so far!
    My best “instant shower” tip is to use some baby wipes that I have enhanced by adding rubbing alcohol. I put the wipes into a ziplock bag and add enough rubbing alcohol to soak the entire bag. I found a menthol alcohol really acts as a super great astringent and feels tingly and refreshing after using, especially on your face and neck. The bonus of this cheap and easy recipe is that it will remove all traces of poison ivy/oak off your skin after coming in contact with any plant life. Basically, this ziplock comes with me on all my trips!

  6. William Boyd says:

    I second the suggestion of rubbing alcohol.
    Use it as you change into your work cloths.
    It evaporates quick, leaving you dry, and kills the bacteria that can cause odors.
    I use a mix of about 4/5 alcohol and top it off with a little nice aftershave.
    Very refreshing and feels great!

    A second suggestion: wear a light short sleeve merino wool jersey. It does not stink like that polyester micro-fiber stuff. It is cool, not warm. It wicks great. Even in the late hot humid summers of North Carolina I can wear one for days at a time without an odor.

  7. Aidan says:

    Shave or clip your pits and your bits, regardless of your gender. A bit porn-star, but it works.

  8. Lesley says:

    Ooochie. As someone who just took a tumble today and ruined the knees of her pants, let me inject a question of “what if you wreck” to the folks who ride in with their work clothes and have no full backup at the office.

    (Happily, while i DO ride to work in my work clothes, i’m paranoid and have a full week’s worth of clothes here, too)

  9. Jim says:

    Another tip if you where suits or clothes that need to be Dry Cleaned is to find a dry cleaner that picks up and delivers to your work place there is a small increase in cost but with the difference in gas prices it is well worth it. Your clothes always look nice.

  10. Girl Jen says:

    Baby wipes + deodorant + body spray = clean, happy Jen!

    Depending on the weather and what I’d like to wear at work, I either ride in wearing my work clothes, or pack my work clothes in my panniers.

    Ouch, Lesley! I’m glad you’re okay and had some extra clothes…I really should bring an extra outfit just for occasions like that.

  11. Shay says:

    During the spring and fall, I ride in my work pants/slacks and a workout-type tshirt or layers. In the summer, I wear workout pants and a tshirt. I pack a pannier with whatever work clothing I’m not wearing as well as deodorant, body splash, and a light facial tinted moisturizer that serves as makeup (hiding my flushed cheeks). That’s pretty good so far – but I haven’t commuted through our July/August yet.

  12. johnnypebs says:

    I have to second showering before you leave. I have a 30 mile one way commute, so I drive half way and ride the rest. We don’t have shower facilities, so I use a home made version of Rocket Shower I found on one of my cycling forums. It’s just 1 part rubbing alcohol and 1 part mineral spirits. The originator of the “recipe” also suggests a few drops of essential oil for fragrance if you wish, but I’ve found that CVS Pharmacy has scented rubbing alcohol. I use the citrus scent and it works out just fine. It’s not overpowering and leaves you with just a ‘clean’ smell. After I mix it together, I put it into one of those refillable, olive oil pump sprayers that you can get in the grocery store or a housewares store.

    Once I get to the office, I head to the restroom. By the time I’ve locked up my bike and made my way into the building, I’ve pretty much cooled down. In the restroom, I splash some water on my face and wet my hair just a little to get the sweat off, spray on the alcohol/mineral spirits mixture and wipe it off with a towel. Works like a charm.

    As for clothes, I bring them with me in my backpack and have found that rolling, rather than folding, helps minimize wrinkles.

  13. Cafiend says:

    Long commute, so I ride in cycling clothes. I keep “The Trousers of the Week” and shop shoes at work. Bring clean shirt and undies every day. Being grody isn’t too much of an issue for a greasy grunt, but I do have to go out on the sales floor from time to time.

    I keep spare pit stop, a wash cloth and towel on scene in case I need to clean up better for special events. Not needed so much now that my wife has a studio with a shower.

    Try Seabreeze! I loved the feel of it on a freshly shaved leg when I was racing. Not for the private parts! But then rubbing alcohol isn’t, either.

  14. Juan says:

    I have an 18 mile, one way commute with no shower, so I keep my pace very moderate on the way in. Colorado is pretty chilly in the mornings, even on days when it hits 90, and I’ve found if I leave early enough, it’s a very comfortable ride. Sometimes leaving just 30 minutes ahead of schedule can keep me cool for the entire ride in.

    Also, no backpacks….once you go Rack, you never go Back!

  15. Dave in Wisconsin says:

    I would amend the list by inserting item; PRE 1.) Install fenders on your bike.

    Great list and tips. Thanks everyone.

  16. Will Rabb says:

    I’m in steamy Florida, and this is how you keep from being sweaty when you arrive at work: Wear a wet T-shirt on the ride! Put icewater in your water bottle and douse yourself during the commute if need be. Keep some nice shirts at work, or bring one in your panniers. Tip: the wet T-shirt should be cut off a little so it doesn’t get your pants wet, if you wear dress pants to work, like I do. Works like a charm. Ladies may want to wear a sports bra or such under the wet T-shirt, of course.

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