By now, football and soccer season is in full swing, and thanks to the growing young athlete(s) in your house, that pile of muddy, grass-stained gear is back again. Woohoo! Before you take on the sweaty heap accumulating in your mudroom, yard and/or porch, read this guide to make sure you're caring for athletic gear the right way. With proper care, protective pads and uniforms belonging to your budding Mia Hamm or Eli Manning can last for years to come.
Drying gear out
Airing out uniforms and pads is the most important part of sports gear maintenance. Sweaty equipment can be a breeding ground for all types of bacteria, which not only make gear smell awful but can also cause serious skin rashes. Athletes should avoid storing just-used gear like pads and jerseys in lockers or closets as they will not be able to air out and will develop an odor.
If you live in a dry climate, encourage your children to hang damp gear up on a hook or a clothes line so it airs out. If you live in a more humid part of the country, dry equipment inside of the house or put it into a clothes drier with little or no heat. Heat can cause leather and most synthetics to break down more quickly.
Different types of sports gear require different types of washing regiments. Here are some useful tips:
- Game Jerseys: Immediately after games or practice, wash game jerseys. Try to avoid letting them sit dirty as perspiration can increases the risk of dye color fading/bleeding and reduce the life of the jersey. DO NOT dry clean, press or iron jerseys. Screen-printing can melt and any elastic areas can lose their stretch. Also, DO NOT use chlorine bleach or fabric softeners. Softeners will deteriorate garments that contain spandex. But DO:
- Wash jerseys inside out
- Use mild powdered detergent. Detergents with pH under 10 are recommended for athletic uniforms.*
- Use cold water and a gentle cycle setting
- Hang dry on wooden or plastic hanger
*For white uniforms, use a pre-wash spray and wash them using Oxyclean.
- Football Pants: Don't remove the belt or pads from football pants. Fasten, hook and loop belts before washing so they don’t bounce around in the washer. Cold wash and air dry. NEVER put football pants in the dryer. It will ruin the belts and can melt pads and fabric.
- Football Pads: After use, spray everything down with an anti-odor disinfectant spray. This will not only improve the smell, but will also kill bacteria. Scrub the disinfectant into the pads with a cloth to make sure all of the bacteria is killed. When cleaning shoulder pads, separate plastic shells from fabric and wipe them down with a cloth soaked in a mixture of soap and water. For a full cleaning of pads, start by using a wet cloth or sponge soaked in warm, soapy water to remove loose dirt. Then:
- Apply an enzyme pre-treat stain remover for any problem areas. Let the stain remover remain on the item for at least fifteen minutes. The active ingredient in enzyme detergent will break down stubborn stains for easy removal.
- Before putting pads in the washing machine, put them in a pillow cases and knot at the ends. This casing will protect the equipment while it is tossed around.
- Set the washing machine on gentle cycle with warm water. Add a standard amount of laundry detergent. Again, do not use chlorine bleach or fabric softeners.
- Take the football pads out of the washer and remove them from the pillow case. Hang them on a hanger or a clothesline and allow them to air dry.
- Shin guards: Spray shin guards with spray disinfectant after each use to prevent fungus and bacteria from growing. If the shin guards have removable pads, take them out of the lining while you wash. You can wash and dry them the same way you'd wash football pads – cold, gentle wash, line dry – but for tougher grass and dirt stains you can:
- Fill a sink or bucket with warm water.
- Add one cup of liquid laundry detergent to the water.
- Place the shin guards in the sink or bucket. Allow them sit in the solution for 30 minutes to one hour, depending on how dirty they are.
- Remove them from the solution and use a scrub brush to get the deep down sweat and dirt.
Helmets are one of the easiest things to maintain. Most mud and debris can be removed from helmets with damp cloth. Don't use abrasive cleaners or solvents to clean helmet as they can be damaging to the paint.
As you probably know, the bag your young athlete uses to transport his/her gear between home, school and practice can end up quite stinky and dirty. Wash it from time to time along with the other gear and be sure to air dry. To reduce odors between washes, tie up an old sock filled with baking soda and essential oil (tea tree or something potent) and keep it at the bottom of the bag.
When the season is over and you've given all sports gear a thorough, final cleaning, be sure these garments are 100% dry before putting them away in storage. And if you don't have any room in your closets, give us a call. We'd love to have the next Eli Manning's or Mia Hamm's gear in one of our units over the winter.
For more help on maintaining sports gear, check out these resources:
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