How to Wash Hockey Equipment


Get the stink out of your hockey gear:  How to wash hockey equipment in a washing machine!

This isn’t the kind of topic I typically write about, but I know there are a lot of hockey-moms out there, and what with hockey season starting up, I thought you might like to know that you don’t have to put up with the stink that starts seeping out of the hockey bags at this time of year.  I’m going to share how I wash our hockey gear in the washing machine, effectively removing all traces of odour from it!

Laundry equipment hanging on the clothes line.

If you’re the mom of a hockey player, or the wife of one, you know the stink I’m talking about!  That, “don’t come near me ’til you’ve washed your hands” stink.  That “don’t bring that hockey bag into the house” stink.  That “nose-offending, toe-curling, rotten-cheese” stink that, believe it or not, our hockey-playing kids and husbands find familiar and oddly comforting.  GROSS!!

As much as a hockey player may be oblivious or even somewhat “attached” to the stench wafting out of their hockey bag, it really shouldn’t be ignored.  The fact is that odour is the result of the sweat and bacteria that has permeated the equipment, and not only does it smell disgusting, if left unattended to, that bag becomes a breeding ground, and eventually you can expect mold and mildew to start appearing on your gear, and possibly fibres in your equipment to start breaking down and deteriorating.

hockey players skating up the ice

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The best way to get rid of the stink in your hockey equipment:

The most obvious and easy way to help keep the smell under control, is to air the hockey bags out after every practice and game, laying all of the equipment out on the garage floor, or on the deck in the sunshine.  But every so often, the most effective thing I do to banish the bacteria and odour is to throw it into the washing machine!

How to wash hockey equipment in a washing machine:

Did you know you can wash all of your hockey equipment, except for the helmet and the skates, in your washing machine?

Yep!  Your washing machine!  Chest protector, elbow pads, shin-guards, jock, pants, socks, neck guard and even the GLOVES can ALL be put through a regular warm-water cycle in your washing machine.  Depending on the size of your washer, you may need to divide your equipment into 2 or 3 loads.

Front-loader or Top-loader?

For front-loaders:  Front-loading machines work best for this because they tumble clean the equipment, where-as in a top-loader the equipment may tend to float at the top of the water.  To help prevent this from happening in a top loader, you can fill your machine, and then let your equipment soak in it for 10 or 15 minutes to help saturate and weight down the equipment before starting your wash cycle.

chest protector, pants and shin=guards drying on the line

Detergent and laundry booster:

As I do for all of my laundry needs, I use my homemade laundry detergent (get the recipe here) when washing our hockey gear.  I like that it’s chemical free and gentle, but contains enough natural and powerful stain and odour removers to get the job done.   A commercial detergent is fine if that’s what you use, as long as it doesn’t contain bleaching agents which could deteriorate the fabrics/materials in your equipment.

Because of the smelly/dirty nature of the equipment, to help combat odour and bacteria, I add an extra half cup each of Borax Laundry Booster and Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
to the load.  You can do this whether you’re using homemade laundry soap or not.

Softener/Rinse Agent:

I only ever use vinegar as a softener or rinse agent in my washing machine, even when doing my regular laundry, and especially when washing our equipment.   Vinegar is a natural odour remover, removes any soap residue from your laundry and your machine, and it won’t coat your equipment with chemicals and a waxy film like commercial softeners will.

Drying your hockey equipment:

The jock, socks, jersey and neck-guard can go in the dryer on low heat, but the rest should air-dry.  I personally prefer to hang ALL of it on the clothesline on a breezy, sunny day.  If you don’t have a clothesline, you can lay it all out on the patio or deck in the sunshine, turning it over occasionally until it’s dry.

hockey gloves washed in the machine and drying on the line

The gloves:

The gloves in particular should never be forced to dry quickly in a dryer or by the heat of a fire.  Allowing them to dry slowly and naturally, prevents the leather palms from cracking.

The helmet:

As I’ve mentioned, do not wash your helmet in the washing machine.  I follow the simple steps listed here when washing a hockey helmet.

As for the skates:

Well, there’s not really much you can do about the skates, but I have heard that some people remove the insoles after every game/practice, and place newspapers in the skates to help speed up the drying process.  In my experience though, the skates are the least stinky of all the items.  It’s the gear and the GLOVES that smell the worst, and thankfully, you now have a solution for dealing with those!

washing hockey equipment in the washing machine

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Yours in play, Jackie from Happy Hooligans

15 comments to How to Wash Hockey Equipment

  • My guys seem to like the soak and swish in the tub method for the big stuff, and the washing machine for the littler bits and pieces. My laundry racks seem to disappear to the basement to be covered in gear in front of our pellet stove all winter. It beats the hockey stink!

  • Joe

    I’ve got a little hooligan whom loves to boast that she smells like a boy when she comes off the ice!
    Thank-goodness for your tips on how to wash out the stink, I’m gathering everything up right now!

    • happyhooligans

      Haha! So funny! And how timely your comment is, Joe! I JUST finished sewing name bars onto all of the jerseys for my 13 year old. And they HADN”T been washed first. Ewwww!! I’m more familiar than ever with that “boy smell” now!

  • Lauren

    Admittedly I do kind of love that smell of stinky hockey gear! It reminds me of games, stories, music, and laughs in the locker room! Plus the excitement of getting out on the ice! But after my last game a few days ago, I was driving home and got a whiff of my hands. WOW they smelled nasty!! I like the smell on my stuff — not on my hands!! So I decided it was time to give my stuff a good wash. A lot of guys on my team like the bathtub method as well, but the washing machine method is so much easier. Though I think they like seeing the water turn brown when they throw their gear in! They also swear by Napisan Oxyaction (or the US equivalent), which does make the whites look a lot brighter. But I’ve washed my stuff well without it, using just normal detergent. The washing soda idea is great though! I soak my helmet in a large sink with lots of my homemade soap dissolved in for a few hours, then wipe it down with a sponge. I air dry all of my stuff.

  • Have you tried an ozone disinfecting machine? We use Sani Sport . I know the ozone actually gets into the equipment – I wonder if a washing machine gets in deep…

  • hey Jackie,

    Great tips here for sure! Nice to see someone educating people on the danger of that hockey stench! Washing gear helps for sure, but it takes a long time to dry. Check out our all-natural machine on our website. It’s a dry process using ozone, which kills MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant superbugs. It only takes 30 min to 1 hour, and you can even do skates and helmets. 150 locations for hockey moms all over North America.

  • Elena

    Recently I found out that Listerine is the secret ingredient for getting your hockey gloves smelling good.
    http://angrybrow.com/hockey/listerine-for-that-clean-hockey-glove-smell/

  • patrick

    I liked your article, but I think it’s a little naive to say that your detergent is chemical-free. Nothing is chemical free. Oxygen is a chemical. Water is a chemical. The glucose in plants and amylase in your spit are chemicals. All matter in the universe is made up of chemicals. Any chemical in certain doses and modes if exposure can be potentially harmful. Any chemical manufactured for human use or consumption has undergone tests for years, sometimes decades before they make it to the shelves, but that’s not to say that they can’t still be “bad” for you in certain doses.

    • happyhooligans

      Good point. It would’ve been more accurate to describe the detergent as being “free of ‘nasty’ chemicals”. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Great ,what a relief,the smell was horrid One question if ur playing hockey 2-3 times a week,how many times should u put the equipment in the washing machine. ,I used purex wth oxy ,used vinegar as softener and 1/3 cup of oxy. Once a week, every 2 weeks or once a month
    Thanks hockey Dad

    • happyhooligans

      I wouldn’t want to over-do it as it may cause wear and tear. I generally do my boys’ a couple times per season, our season is 6 months long, and our winters are freezing here, so we store the gear in the garage during the week, which tends to freeze and somewhat de-stink the stuff.

  • Is once a month too much,he plays 12 months a year,2-3 times a week,yes we are in Montreal so it is freezing In winter ,I will make sure he leaves his bag in garage ,he used to bring his bag downstairs in the basement ,his equipment smells so good now ,before u could die from the smell. Could u put the helmut in a front load machine on gentle wash. What do u think. Thanks again,my wife is so happy she wanted to throw his eguipment in the garbage. Thanks again

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