It’s obvious why it’s important to clean sports equipment— it gets really, really, really dirty. And smelly. And stained. We could go on, but you get the picture. That’s why we have compiled this list of popular sports items and how to clean them. Find your equipment on this list and learn how to get clean sports gear.


How to Clean Sports Gear


How to Clean a Jersey

Jerseys are machine washable and easy to clean. However, there a few “dos” and “don’ts” when it comes to washing the team’s colors. Use caution when washing your sports gear!


  • Read the label and follow the instructions.
  • Wash like colors with like. If your jersey is white, definitely only wash it with other whites.
  • Repair peeling lettering with a piece of paper set over the problem area and an iron set to high (no steam). Use the tip of the iron and press the paper until the letter sticks back to the fabric. Don’t touch the iron directly to the letter or you’ll have a melted mess.
  • Turn your jersey inside out before washing to protect the lettering and appliqués.


  • Most jerseys should NOT be placed in the dryer. Hang on a drying rack or on a clothesline.
  • Don’t wash jerseys with jeans. The dye from the jeans often leaches into the wash water and can streak your jersey.


How to Clean a Mouthguard

Mouthguards need more than just a rinse. Use a toothbrush and a mild soap to scrub the mouthguard. Rinse with hot water, but not too hot! If it’s a formed mouthguard, you don’t want it to lose its shape. Place the mouthguard on a towel to air dry or wipe it down with a clean cloth. Keep all your sports gear clean!


How to Clean Shoulder Pads

Sports that require shoulder pads involve getting hot and sweaty. That means these pieces need to be taken care of or else they’ll smell. The easiest and most effective way to avoid odor is to let the pads air out on a flat surface after use. For quick cleanings, wipe them down with a damp cloth. You can also spray a disinfectant made specifically for athletic gear. Let the pads dry thoroughly before storing them.

For deeper cleanings, separate the plastic shells from the fabric. Wipe the plastic down with a rag and a solution of soapy water. Put the fabric pieces in a pillowcase and tie a knot at the opening. Put the pillowcase in the washing machine. Use a gentle cycle and warm water. Do not use chlorine bleach or fabric softener. When the cycle is over, remove the pads from the pillowcase and hang them up to dry.


How to Clean Shin Guards

You can wash these in the same way as shoulder pads: protect with a pillowcase and then throw in the washing machine. If the pads are very dirty, scrub them with a soft-bristled brush before putting them in the washer. Do not place shin guards in the dryer. Let them air dry.

If the shin guards are completely plastic, you can just hand wash them instead.

Learn How to Clean Sports Gear


How to Clean Helmets

It’s important to clean helmets. They get full of sweat, bacteria, and odor. However, you can’t throw a helmet in the washer! You’ve got to hand wash them. To do so, just use a soft damp cloth and a little bit of baby shampoo and wipe the inside of the helmet. Baby shampoo is gentle and will clean the foam without damaging it. Be sure to get in small crevices to eliminate as much dirt and sweat as possible. After you have washed the foam, spray it with a disinfectant and let it dry completely. To clean the outside of the helmet, just wipe it down with a damp cloth. If you choose to disinfect the outside, wipe it down with a clean cloth afterward.

  • Do not use any abrasive sponge or pads to clean. It will damage the foam; this applies to most of your sports gear.
  • Do not use bleach ammonia, turpentine, or any cleaners will abrasive particles. It is very important to only use cleaners that will not damage the integrity of the foam. Stick to shampoo or a very mild soap.


How to Clean Headgear

Like helmets, headgear for wrestlers or martial artists gets sweaty and gross. To clean, fill a spray bottle with a solution made from equal parts water and rubbing alcohol. Spray the headgear and wipe it down. Let the headgear air dry.


How to Clean Elbow/Knee Pads

Check the tag on your pads and follow the instructions for cleaning. Many fabric pads can just be placed in the washing machine. Use your favorite detergent and the gentle cycle. To dry, hang the pads up on a clotheslines or drying rack. Do not use the dryer for you knee pads and most of your sports gear, air dry them instead.

With thick pads, it can take days for them to dry out completely. It’s important to keep them in an open or well-ventilated place until they are dry. Also, always remove your pads from your sports bag or car trunk after use. Keeping your pads in a compact space will contribute to odor and maybe even mold.


How to Clean a Baseball Mitt

First shake or dust off the dirt, then dampen a cloth and wipe down the mitt. Be sure to get in between the fingers and other small areas. You can buff the mitt with a leather cleaner or conditioner. Wipe off any excess liquid and allow the mitt to dry completely before using it.


How to Clean Ice Skates Or Cleats

Many skates and some cleats have removable inserts that can be taken out and washed. Just wet the soles with water, squirt soap on them, and use a scrub brush to wash. Once they’re clean, rinse again, squeeze out water, and let air dry.

You can also spray the inside of the shoe with a disinfectant. (A solution of vinegar and water is a natural option.) To prevent smells, place moisture-absorbing newspaper inside of the skate or cleat after use. Less moisture will mean less smell!


How to Remove Rust from Ice Skates

To remove rust, check out our Cleaning Tip How to Remove Rust. To prevent rust forming on your skate blades, wipe them dry after every use and do not leave them inside your sports bag, the trunk of your car, or any other small enclosed space. Remember to safe-keep all your sports gear.


How to Clean Boxing Gloves

There are several methods used to keep boxing gloves clean.

Freezing: Putting your gloves in the freezer overnight is a great way to get rid of bacteria. Place the gloves in a plastic airtight bag to prevent ice from forming on them.

Saltwater: Soaking your gloves in salt water will definitely kill all the odor-killing bacteria. Just be sure it’s okay to soak your specific glove material in salt water.

Stuffing: Use a “glove dog.” Stuff your gloves with something that will draw out moisture and bacteria from the glove, such as a bag of cedar chips or newspaper.

As with most other sports equipment, moisture and enclosed spaces are the enemy. Always remove your boxing gloves from your sports bag after use to let the air out.


How to Clean a Punching Bag

Wipe or spray the punching bag with a disinfectant after each use. You can also clean the punching bag a couple times a month with a leather cleanser. Apply the cleanser to a cloth, then wipe down the bag thoroughly. Let air dry.


Clean Sports Gear is Just Better

Sports should be full of fun, not funky odors. While there are many different sports, each with their own equipment, the basic care requirements are the same: take care of your equipment, clean it regularly, and let it air out fully to prevent odors. With proper cleaning and care, your gear should be odorless, stainless, and help you stay safe while having fun.

Read these 4 Methods to Clear Your House of Tough Odors.