Cosplay’s “dirty secret” is that some delicate outfits simply can’t be washed, or receive infrequent hand-washings with some repair afterward. There’s steps we can take both with costumes and our bodies to keep things fresher longer…

  • Fresh Again for Uniforms and Costumes spray pre-treats a costume to stay fresher.
  • A base layer of Under Armour® HeatGear or a Lycra dive skin (or anything in a nylon or polyester Lycra blend, not cotton blends) improves comfort, endurance and keeps costumes cleaner. This works even with “street clothes” costumes and uniforms.

Seems counterintuitive, it’s an extra layer. But perspiration is a feedback loop; because synthetic fabrics wick, perspiration works more effectively and you sweat less.

LEFT: wicking base layer, product image from Raven Fightwear.

  • Wash Under Armour / dive skins / etc. before first use. They’re often heavily dyed and will stain costumes and skin if used straight from the package.
  • A couple sets will get you through a convention weekend…but if you’ve only got one, washing in a hotel sink with shampoo can suffice. Rinse, roll up in a towel, wring gently, then hang up to dry overnight (or even faster, with a fan).
  • Allow 48 hours for aromatic foods like garlic to flush out of your system before costuming; eat a bit bland. The top 3 foods affecting sweat odor (and thus costume freshness) are sulfur-rich plants (garlic, onions, curry), alcohol and red meat.

Not meat- or booze-shaming here, it’s just biology. You don’t have to abstain completely, just dial it back for a couple days before (and then during) a big cosplay weekend to help keep things pleasant.

Tangent: a frequent complaint of keto dieting is wicked B.O. Consider pausing it a week before a con, allowing body chemistry to normalize, then resume after the event. Small setback, but this won’t completely undo all progress. Bonus, social dining is easier when not a picky eater.

  • If you’re prolific with perspiration in certain areas (e.g. armpits) and are concerned about visibly soaking through, place absorbent feminine pads in those spots. It’s okay, even for dudes. Really.
  • The number one key to keeping costumes fresh is to get them dry ASAP! If you have a hotel room at a convention, that means fans…
    • A blower or floor dryer fan moves the most air for its size and cost, but are loud. Not for light sleepers.
    • Vornado® fans are quietest for their size and airflow, but can be costly to purchase new. Keep an eye out at garage sales and thrift stores. Model 293 is especially large and rugged.
    • Always take a few seconds to wind up the power cord before transporting fans and power strips. They inevitably end up atop a huge stack of luggage and you will trip over dangling cords, every time.
  • Diversey End Bac® II—a hospital-grade disinfectant spray—is the gold standard for costume hygiene. It’s the treatment that sweaty Hollywood creature suits get! Spray down the inside of a costume after disrobing, allow at least 30 seconds for it to work, then get air blowing over it. But…
  • Certain generic disinfectant sprays from Target, Walmart and others have the exact active ingredients in similar ratios, usually much cheaper! Check the can for:
    • n-Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride 0.072%
    • n-Alkyl ethylbenzyl ammonium chloride 0.072%
    • Ethanol 53.088%
    • Other: 46.768%
  • If you don’t have fancy disinfectant spray, 70% isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle handles the worst of it. Not the higher concentrations…70% is actually the optimal ratio for disinfecting!
  • With any disinfectant or cleaner, avoid painted areas of a costume, hot glue, and certain plastics. Ideally, test costume materials and chemicals for compatibility during the planning & building stage.
  • Make sure any nylon belts, straps and buckles also get a good spraying, as these can really hold a bouquet.

Oh no! Despite your best efforts, costume funk has crossed the line. Try…

  • Double down on the disinfectant spray…or even bleach if the costume allows.
  • Add a cup or two of white vinegar to the wash.
  • Turn costume inside-out, hang or lay outside in full sunover several days if necessary. UV light has disinfecting properties!
  • If a costume’s still unpleasant after all that...it’s probably mildew and the suit is trash. Never let a costume sit around wet!

“Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

— Thomas Edison, cosplaying as a Wookiee

This guide was first published on Sep 06, 2022. It was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

This page (Comfort & Hygiene) was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

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