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By: John Adams, author of Dadbloguk.com, LinkedIn Changemaker, and dad of two young daughters
Posted on: May 24, 2021

Keeping sports gear clean (and fresh!)

Whether cheering on your kid from the sidelines or squeezing in workout time throughout your busy week, sports and fitness activities are all fun and games until the stink on apparel and gear sets in. John Adams explores some simple ways to keep gear fresh to avoid foul odours before the next game!


As we near summer and COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed in many parts of the world, sports and fitness fans are once again able to play their favourite games and stay in shape. This has been welcomed in our household as both my children are keen on sport and I’ve been able to step-up my fitness regime.

As a family, this has left us dealing with a common problem: How to keep sports gear clean! This is very important at the best of times as sports gear is notorious for harbouring all sorts of germs. While COVID is still a heightened risk, it’s all the more vital to keep clothes and equipment clean.

Here are some ideas for keeping sports equipment clean and in good condition.

Always empty out the sports bag when you get home

You may be tired, hungry and desperate to start cooking dinner, but always empty out your family’s kit bag when you get home. Speak to any soccer mom or baseball dad and they’ll probably tell you a horror story about the time a kit bag got forgotten about and opened weeks later, only to find smelly, moist kit, muddy shoes, dripping wet towels and half-eaten snacks inside. Failing to empty a kit bag the minute you get home just creates twice the work.

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Washing sports clothes

If your children are like mine, their sports kit often returns home filthy. It gets covered in mud and grass stains. Added to that, you have to worry about sweat and odours.

To seriously clean sports clothes, you want to run them through a pre-wash cycle. You might even want to leave them to soak for an hour or two before putting them in the washing machine.

You may be tempted to add extra detergent to the wash: Don’t do this! If you use too much detergent, it will leave a residue in the clothes. Over time this can build up and actually attract bacteria that make the clothing smell.

You may also be tempted to wash at a high temperature. Many sports clothes are made of man-made fibres and can be washed at lower temperatures. A high temperature wash may kill any bacteria in the clothing, but it will be very hard on the garments and they may not last as long. If you get a good results on a 30˚ or 40˚ wash, stick with it.

Drying sports clothes

If at all possible, dry your family’s sports clothes outside in the wind and sun. If that isn’t possible, tumble dry on a low heat. If you tumble dry on a high heat, you can actually ‘cook in’ bacteria that cause odours so your garments might be left wonderfully clean, but left permanently smelly!

Whatever you do, make sure your clothes are completely dry before putting them away. If you put them away even a tiny bit damp they will smell.

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Cleaning pads and bulky items

Cricket pads, baseball gloves, football pads and so on can be breeding grounds for bacteria. Items like this should be sprayed down with a suitable cleaning agent after use and then left to air-dry. Some pads can also be machine washed. You can place the item in a pillowcase and tie the end of it. It’s also best to use a gentle wash on a low heat.

One word of advice: Do not ever tumble dry sports equipment. It’s likely to cause damage. Either use sunlight or hang the equipment up and place a fan nearby to circulate air around it.

The sun is your friend!

Use the power of the sun to help you deep-clean clothes and sports equipment. It’s a natural way of dealing with odours and germs. Once you have washed and cleaned clothes or sports kit, hang it outside in the sunlight to dry off if you can.

…ice is also your friend

Small items, like soccer shin pads, can be placed in a zip-lock bag and placed in a freezer for 48 hours. This will help kill off odour-causing bugs.

Enjoy yourself

If you follow these tips your sports equipment and clothes should last longer and smell nicer. They are all simple steps but remember, don’t let these tasks build up. Empty that kit bag, clean off those soccer boot and spray down those gloves just as soon as you can. It’s like any household task, if you put these jobs off, you just make more work for yourself. Most importantly of all, I hope you and your family enjoy your sporting and fitness activities. Have fun!