It’s hard to think of anything grosser than the lingering stench of dirty sports gear. (The worst: dirty hockey gear. Ick.) Which is why knowing how to properly clean your gear and store it is important if you’re a big-time athlete (or your partner is, and you’ve been desperately Googling ways to get rid of that knee-pad odor that’s stinking up the basement). Read on for our guide to cleaning and storing all your sports equipment.
Wipe down all equipment
Some basics to have on hand, no matter what sport you play: a towel and either a box of moist antibacterial wipes or Formula 409 spray and a rag. You can use the towel to do quick wipe-downs of any equipment that may have gotten dirty during the season, like your golf clubs. Use the wipes (or spray) to eliminate extra germs that may have accumulated on the handles of your tennis racquets and golf clubs, bowling ball, etc.
And don’t forget the shoes
Have cleats or golf shoes? It’s a good idea to keep them with the rest of your gear. But first you’ll want to clean off all that mud and grass. A heavy-duty shoe cleaning brush can work wonders on cleats or soles with hard-to-get-to grooves.
Now for the smelly stuff -- consider getting a noseplug (or burning a scented candle while you sort this stuff). Read the label before washing anything to make sure you don’t ruin any pricey equipment or lucky jerseys. To remove the smells and stains, most sports uniforms (like that club soccer shirt and socks) can be tossed in the washing machine, while padding typically can be left to soak in a tub or sink filled with hot water, laundry detergent and a little bit of bleach (just make sure to stick with the following ratio: 10 percent bleach and 90 percent water). Let that padding soak for an hour or so to really get all the germs and sweat scent out.
When you’re done cleaning, toss your gear right into the drier (if the label says it’s okay) or ring out all of the water before placing it all outside (or hanging it up in a well-ventilated room) to dry. If you did all the dirty work in your basement, don’t also leave it there to dry (even if that’s where your laundry machine is located). Unfortunately, it’ll probably take too long to completely dry everything down there, and padding or clothing that stays wet or damp for too long can become moldy (and smelly). Gross!
Air it out
For gear you’re still using regularly, don’t just throw it back in the front closet when you get home. Make sure to air it all out after every use -- especially if you sweat in it considerably. (If you can, stick it all outside for an hour and let the fresh air do its thing.) If you’ve got a smeller, spray Febreze (or a similar deodorizer) before and after you air it out to help kill stinky bacteria and, of course, mask whatever unpleasant smell is left over.
Keep everything together
It’s a good idea to store all the stuff you need to clean and store your gear in the same place where you store the actual equipment. Then when the end of the season rolls around, you don’t have to tear apart your basement and hall closet looking for the boot bags and Odor-Eaters.