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Tips for Cleaning Sports Gear

Sports gear has always been a breeding ground for bacteria and odors. Follow these tips and tricks to get into a routine of cleaning and disinfecting your child’s equipment this season.

Washing Sports Clothes and Uniforms

Unless your child is wrestling in ancient Greece, they are likely wearing some sort of uniform to games and practices. Use the following tips from The New York Times to thoroughly disinfect and sanitize sports clothes:

  • More detergent doesn’t mean cleaner clothes. In fact, using too much detergent and laundry boosters like fabric softener can lead to buildup that actually absorbs more odor.

  • Throw a cup of white vinegar in with a half-dose of laundry detergent to eliminate odors and wash away buildup. 

  • Wash sports clothes inside out in cold water with sports-specific detergents. Toss in a quarter or half cup of vinegar or baking soda for the particularly pungent loads.

  • Air dry elastic clothing like football and baseball pants.

Washing Pads and Gear

The best way to maintain sterile, odorless gear is to spray and dry it regularly after use. However, everything needs a periodic deep clean. 

  • Spray gear with Force of Nature, Clear Gear or a similar product on the EPA’s Disinfectants list. 

  • Allow the gear to air dry.

  • Pads and bags can be washed in the washing machine using the detergent guidelines above. Use gentle settings on top load washers, as the mixer may knick or damage equipment. Set the washer for a large load, pre-wash, and heavy soil level.

  • Wash football shoulder pads in a pillowcase with the open end tied.

  • Do not machine dry sports equipment, as it can lead to warping and malfunction. Instead, hang dry or place on a rack and use a fan to circulate airflow.

  • Helmets: Wipe down and spray regularly, paying close attention to chin guards. To deep clean, fill a bathtub with warm water and baby shampoo, and use a sponge or toothbrush to scrub nooks and crannies.

  • Skates, cleats and shoes: Spray and air dry immediately after use. Insoles can be removed and machine washed, and periodically replaced as needed.

Sterilizing Equipment

Some sports require athletes to touch and share the same equipment. If that’s the case, it’s important to have a plan in place to periodically sterilize equipment and the players using it.

  • Encourage players to wash their hands properly before and after practice and keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in the dugout, on the bench, or in the locker room. This is especially important before eating handheld food.

  • Use sprays and wipes on the EPA’s Disinfectants list or make your own cleaning solution: 5 tablespoons (⅓ cup) bleach per gallon of water.

  • Reduce the need to share personal equipment, such as water bottles, towels, etc., by encouraging each athlete to bring their own.

  • Clearly label all gear to avoid mix-ups.

  • Designate a parent volunteer to disinfect shared items at games and practices as needed.

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