How to Wash Hockey Equipment at Home

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

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!

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!!

Laundry equipment hanging on the clothes line.

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.  That odour is sweat and bacteria that have permeated the equipment. Not only does it smell disgusting, if left unattended to, the hockey bag becomes a breeding ground, and eventually you can expect mould and mildew to start appearing on your gear, possibly breaking down the fibres in your equipment, causing it to deteriorate.

hockey players skating up the ice

for your convenience, this post contains afilliate links

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.  My son often empties his bag beside the dehumidifier as well, which helps it to dry quickly, wicking all of the moisture out of the gear and the bag in a short amount of time.  The most effective way I’ve found to remove bacteria and odour from all of his hockey equipment however, is to wash it at home.

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 listed here when washing a hockey helmet.

Removing the odour from hockey 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

34 comments to How to Wash Hockey Equipment at Home

  • 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

  • Ann Robertson

    Guess it will work just fine for football and lacrosse gear too! ;-)

  • Ken

    I found ozone to be topical at best. Although it is effective on the surface, that is where it ends. Think about debris build up and how do you remove that build up in catchers, under the skate insoles, what about the hockey bag itself? It is a petri dish of microbial communities. Testing has shown that to eliminate the 13 primary contaminates on protective sports equipment, with layered and wicking facbrics you need to have both a process and a formula coupled with a cold water treatment followed by a room temperature drying system.

    RBK, Easton, Bauer and all of the rest, including the CSA on the hygienic processing of helmets, will tell you that the debris and microbial build up needs to be scrubbed and extracted otherwise it can readily be reactivated.

    athleticclean.com has been the ONLY company we have used since eSporta was proven to not eliminate contaminates as they claimed and that the ozone, as soon as we wore our gear next time, did nothing as the smell came back. Knowing that the smell is bacteria and other microbial growth eating the sweat and build up and then excrete it back on the equipment, we can definitively state that IF it starts up again right away that it wasn’t eliminated in the first place. Once we found them we have never looked back for our complete group. We have it done four times seasonally, they pick up and return the next day or on our timeline. We did extensive study as we had to. We had a room full of infection and couldn’t understand. They came in, lab tested our issues, found the problem and solved it. Talk about going beyond.

    As a FYI-my brand new Maytag has a warranty clause that it is not made for protective sports equipment. Yes, trying to keep your gear clean yourself is commendable, however, I would let the pros do it. Hey they even repair everything and bring the skates back sharpened according to our hollow! Can’t beat that!

  • christine petrucci

    as a mom of a squirt goalie we use the Equipment Ranger – it dries the gear with a very powerful blower and there is a place for every piece of equipment. My son was also always forgetting something at home – so now if there is something left on the unit he knows it still has to go into the bag! (and vice versa bç if there is an open space he knows he left something in his bag….
    EquipmentRanger.com

  • Samantha

    Thank you for the cleaning tips! Next sunny day here in mass I will be doing this to both my kids equipment! They probably won’t be too happy since they like the smell! Didn’t know about washing the gloves!

  • Andrew

    Some good ideas but some bad ones. First, the sun. Most ice hockey gear, being made with various nylons, isn’t designed to withstand regular UV exposure. In lots of cases this would cause the material to discolor and/ or breakdown prematurely. Sunlight is generally worse than a small amount of bleach in the cleaning mixture.
    As for using a top loader to fully wash gear; don’t ever let it get past soak cycle. Straps and loose bits of gear get caught in the agitator and can mess things up pretty badly.
    I am absolutely looking forward to trying your cleaning agent recipe!

    • happyhooligans

      Your comment about the sun is an interesting one. So many people lay their gear out on a cold, sunny winter day to de-stink it. I think if you were to leave it on the line for days, multiple times per year, you might see some deterioration, in all the years I’ve been washing and line drying my boys’ equipment (2 or 3 times per year) I haven’t seen a problem. Thanks for the tips about the top loader. Hope you enjoy the detergent!

  • pablonegro

    I learned from a fencer that washing in ammonia breaks down the salts in sweat–it it what they wash their lames in. I tried it on hockey gear alternating with laundry soap every other wash; it’s magic. I didn’t wash the gloves in it–not sure how it reacts with the the leather in the palms.

    • Ken

      Hi…I too learned about that but with hockey equipment, due to the compression foam, resins and adhesives used not to mention metal clasps and the like will have their integrity broken down when too much ammonia is used. A natural oxidization takes place.

      If you cannot get to the pros at Athletic Clean, then the best thing is get Zeolyte into your hockey bag all the time. Release the rock in the sun and it recharges when it discharges the trapped air that it absorbs. Another trick is to be sure you take your gear out to dry after every game. Kill the feeding ground for harmful contaminates such as MRSA and Staccybotrys. Finally, NEVER use heat when drying. That breaches the integrity of the gear 100%. DO NOT even use hot water, its a myth. Use cold water on your gear, put in some elbow grease and get in there then hang it out to dry in a room temperature area.

      At least you are all thinking in the right direction, hygiene in protective sports equipment. It is something we need to teach young and old—-for sure the OLD! (That includes me folks!)

  • Faye

    Why is it wives and mums that wash the equipment? I’m a female hockey player married to a hockey player so not every little wifey is holed up at home scrubbing her husbands stinking kit. That being said, if you have any tips on washing a rancid goalie kit I’d love to hear them. My husband can’t fit his gear in the machine!

    • happyhooligans

      You make a good point, Faye! :) My husband doesn’t play, so I was writing about how I was my sons’ equipment. I imagine if my hubby played, I’d be having him handle his own. lol As for your husbands gear, you can ask at a sport shop about where you can take it to be cleaned. There are professional services that can sanitize the gear. Good luck! I feel your pain. :)

    • Ken

      Hi Faye,

      First, get a phosphate free surfactant and use that in conjunction with an antiseptic such as Dettol (by one cap per load only or per mixing cup of soap and mix thoroughly). That is important to maintain all the clarino materials’ integrity found all throughout goalie gear (and player gear too).

      Start with stuffing newspapers into the blocker and catcher and skates. This is going to start to wick the moisture that is in there with the microbes onto the carbon of the ink and will assist you in cleaning it all up! Remove all the pads you can out of all the gear and mark it’s location if you need to or photograph it so you can remember how in the world it all came out!

      Use a scrubber with an arm on it by dipping the bristled end into the soap. Scrub up and into all areas. Use a bottle cleaner for the glove fingers to be sure to disturb all the debris in there. By thoroughly rinsing in cold water you will be good. Do this (I would expect) at least two or three times to be sure you have reached it all. By missing some, it just gets reactivated as soon as you wear the gear again and start to warm up and your nose will let you know!

      With the pads, toss them all into your non-agitated washing machine. If you don’t have one, then go to the laundry mat and use a front loader. Use a good portion of your soap in these units (don’t over do it) but make sure you sud it up well. Then do a double rinse to be sure all the soapy residue is gone as it will make you very itchy if it is not.

      Skates and helmet need to be done by hand in the sink with your scrubbers. Take the insoles out, unlaces the skates completely and you’re ready. Scrub the helmet everywhere inside. Remove any headbands that are velcro’ed on and scrub that too. Scrub the chin cup especially. Very important and also the cage if there is one. Scrub the insoles with the brush as well as the laces. DO NOT PUT THE LACES IN THE MACHINE! They will wind all around everything and tightly and it is next to impossible to get it undone. But scrub the laces too. Scrub the skates with your scrubber inside all the way to where the toes go by bending back the tongue and throwing in lots of muscle to be sure you are disturbing the dirt and getting it loosened and out.

      With the hockey bag itself, be sure to use cold water (be it in the tub if it is a wheeled goalie or player bag) with your soap and antiseptic. The bag houses all that noxious stuff so you KNOW it has to have some of that microbial growth on it. SCRUB IT LIKE CRAZY — RINSE THEN SCRUB IT LIKE A MAD PERSON ONCE MORE TO BE SURE! Hang to dry by bungee cords or whatever you have to suspend it so all water goes downward and out of the bag. Otherwise, tomorrow, (like I did), you will have skate pockets full of water and end compartments with water.

      AIr dry now. do not use a machine to ‘tumble dry’ or any of that. As it dries be sure to flex the palms of your gloves and any other pieces with cotton, leather, clarino or any headbands. This will stop them from hardening as they dry and from becoming very course.

      Once all dry (the next day at least so give yourself 24 hours to do it), reassemble all your pads back where they went. Make sure you put your hands into your gloves again too.Flex them around just to warm the gloves a bit to reshape to your hand. Shouldn’t take but a couple laps around the ice and you’re ready to go.

      Studies have shown (http://hockeyclean.com/NW/bin/lab.html) what grows on our gear, how to combat it with the pros I linked you to here, but lets face it, maybe Athletic Clean/Hockey Clean isn’t in your area what I have provided is approved by those same pros as I DO have them in my area and I do use their services and it is unreal! It is proactive how they do it so when you start to sweat it is combating that microbial growth it is amazing, but still, do it it home if you don’t have the pros as it makes a difference to your health and those you play with 100!

      Folks the bottom line here is to have a hygienic mindset and you all clearly do. I’ve seen many players over the years get infection, one loose a baby finger, another had a chest infection directly due to the mould growth on their gear. With that said, keep your olfactory sensory keen and smell for when you start to notice it and when you do, get those newspapers going (in and out of the gloves and skates after every skate) and pull it out after a day to de-moisturize skates and glove and even helmet.

      Best to you all! Lets keep it clean out there in every way we can and play this game we all love so much!

      • happyhooligans

        Thanks for popping in again, Ken. Love all your insight and advice. Great point about the hockey bag. I never even think to wash ours. Pretty scary to think of the infections that can be caused by moldy gear! Yikes!

      • Check out the. EquipmentRanger.com
        A forced air sports drying and organization system. If you can get the gear dry quickly the mold griejbg becomes less of an issue!! Developed for our goalie son! Helps cut down on The stink!!

      • Ken

        Christine,

        Provided there is no heat in the application then all the manufacturers would support it. As soon as heat is used, even though it may not be visible, it can breach the integrity of the compression foams and pvc in the gear. If it is cycle air, like if you put something on tumble dry in your dryer, then it will work. I know the Rocket System out of Montreal caused some gear to melt, deform and even in on instance catch fire.

        So as long as you are cognizant, then yes, by keeping the feeding ground for microbes at bay you eliminate one of the two elements needed for them to grow. Moist area is one of them and of course the sweat is what the microbes eat. Eliminate one, as you are suggesting, then you have started to quell the growth no question.

        Ken

    • Ken

      The HappyHooligans is a great read as often as I am notified of new blogs and updates on this one in particular being close to what we went through.

      Yes, the bag is the petri dish that houses all the 13 primary contaminates found.

      Keep up the chatter about hygiene in hockey folks, it will save lives in the long run truly!

  • John Sweeny

    We have also used the dishwasher to clean some of our son’s gear. The water jets and heat is good for getting into the equipment and because there is no “agitation” it does’t affect the shape of the equipment. In terms of any cleaning solution vinegar works well. Not sure about the long term impact but the higher heat is useful to help kill the bacteria. Besides, in general the equipment is being replaced quite regularly anyhow because of growth, equipment improvements, breakdown etc. In between cleanings drying it after each use is best just hanging it on a rack works. A little Febreeze must be the Antibacterial version spray can also help to keep the odour down. He wears “under armour coverage which keeps the equipment from direct contact with skin. I guess a spray bottle with vinegar and water to mist it may work too.

  • Kelly

    Hi all! Just wanted to share my knowledge about a product I found to be great–especially for hockey gloves/goalie blockers/catchers. http://shop.seventhgeneration.com/disinfectant-sanitizer.html
    This is organic…it smells a little like gun oil/leather but I find it keeps my gloves smelling good and the leather soft. I decided to use it on all my goalie equipment. I do soak it once in a while in the tub and rinse with warm water and antibacterial dawn dish washing liquid. It seems gentle on the equipment. I always lay out my equipment immediately after returning from a game and spray everything. Gloves/blockers/catchers go on a drying rack with a fan blowing into them. Bag gets a lysol spray down. Seems to be working…thought I would share–especially for gloves–the lysol was drying out the leather bad!

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