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Tips for cleaning sports equipment


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Helmets, gloves, pads, cleats — most sports require some kind of special equipment. Despite how often we use our beloved sports gear, or our kids use theirs, it tends to get thrown in a bag at the end and forgotten about until it’s next needed. And gosh, does it stink! Here are some tips on cleaning, disinfecting, and getting rid of really bad smells. 

Why bother cleaning sports equipment?

Ok, we get it. Chunky pads, helmets, and equipment that can’t be soaked in water may feel like a faff to scrub clean. And as much as your teenage son may seem unphased by the stink, there are some very good reasons to clean your sports gear. 

  • It kills bacteria and prevents infections
  • It eliminates (eye-wateringly bad) odours
  • It protects and extends the life of your equipment

How to clean sports equipment

Most sports equipment can be divided into three cleaning categories: Machine-washable gear, washable gear that doesn't fit in the machine, and sports gear that shouldn't be soaked in water. 

1. How to clean machine-washable sports gear

Sports gear that can be washed in the machine includes items such as boxing straps, non-slip yoga socks, and elasticated resistance bands. You can also machine-wash sport shoes and most high-performance activewear.  

  • If you can’t wash them the same day, let them air dry before tossing them into the washing basket to prevent mildew. Damp and dirty is a breeding playground for bacteria. 
  • Always read the label before washing. Usually, a cold wash of 30°C (80°F) is recommended for sports equipment. 
  • Add some white cleaning vinegar or use a natural enzyme-based detergent to the wash cycle to further combat odours. 
  • Where possible, turn your equipment or activewear inside out. Most grime builds up on the inside of your gear. Turning it inside out also protects the colour. 
  • For extra colour protection in every wash try adding a laundry sheet into your washing routine like Colour Catcher. Simply pop into the drum alongside your sports gear and let the machine do the rest!
  • If you’re machine washing pads or anything with buckles or velcro, wash them inside a pillowcase or a mesh washing bag.
  • If you see yellowing under the arms or other sweat stains, spot-treat the area with some detergent before washing. 
  • Air dry. Avoid using the tumble dryer for sports equipment. 
sport equipment (gloves) soaked in a tub

2. How to clean soakable sports equipment

Some sports equipment is simply not suitable or too bulky to chuck in the wash. Things like pads for hockey (goalies) or football can be washed easily by hand.

  • Prevent a build-up of filth in the first place by wiping down all your sports equipment after every use and airing them out — yes, even your shin pads or rugby scrum cap. 
  • Use a bucket of warm water and laundry detergent to wash your sports kit by hand. An old soft toothbrush and a microfibre cloth are useful for scrubbing here. 
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of white cleaning vinegar OR baking soda helps combat nasty odours. Don’t use both at the same time as it can foam up and leave a sticky mess!
  • Let it soak for a couple of hours, then squeeze out the excess water. You can use a towel to blow dry.
  • Then, air dry. Hang on the washing line or dry flat on a towel. 

3. How to clean sports equipment that can’t be soaked

As much of a battering sports equipment gets on the court, field, or rink, some things just don’t take well to water. Or they take FOREVER to dry. To clean sports equipment that can’t be soaked in water, follow these tips. Helmets, goalie gear, and hockey sticks, this is for you.

  • Say it with us: prevention is key! Wipe down and air out all your equipment after every use. Doing so eliminates moisture that breeds mould, bacteria, and icky odours. You could even use silica pads to draw out extra moisture when your equipment is in your sports bag.
  • Fill a spray bottle with warm water and a dash of laundry detergent. Spray the surface of your sports equipment. Let it soak in for a few minutes. 
  • Scrub clean with a cloth. 
  • Spray with just warm water, then blot clean with a clean cloth or towel
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals or bleach which can degrade equipment faster. 
  • If mould has taken hold of your sports equipment such as foam padding, you might need to replace them!

Regular cleaning not only extends the life of your sports equipment (meaning buying less stuff), but it should keep people from backing away from your stink. And, if it is your kid’s sports gear that is assaulting everyone’s senses, get them involved in the cleaning process! It teaches them about hygiene and caring for their kit. 


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