Exercise causes sweating, and whatever you’re wearing is going to mop it up. It seems a little bizarre to think that this ice sport gets so hot, but you don’t even have to be moving to sweat. Armpits, the neck, and areas of the back can saturate protection pads. Bacteria growing on the fabric will create bad smells and can cause infections in wounds. If you want to prevent an overpowering stench from unclean hockey gear, you’ll need to find a way to sterilize it.

Reduce the Rink Stink

how to wash hockey hgear

Image via Flickr by cyclotourist

Emulating a common phrase: the first stage of protection is prevention. There are a few things you can do to reduce the amount of cleaning you need to do to improve hygiene and lessen the odor issue. Here are a few quick pointers:

  • Wipe down the sweat from the inside of your helmet and any sweaty surfaces with wipes, or spray with a disinfectant. The aim here is to kill off as much bacteria as you can before drying out the gear.
  • Use a gear rack for hockey equipment if you do not have the time between sessions to wash everything. Ice melting on fabric will soak in with the sweat if in a bag. You want to dry everything before packing up.
  • Wear wicking undergarments that separate your skin from the pads. Base layers improve airflow and keep you cool, reducing sweat buildup in tight areas.

Washing Methods

Some gear will need some personal care, but most of it can go through a faster cleaning process.

Soft Equipment — Gloves, Liners, Jerseys, and Pants

Machine Washing

It should be obvious that ice skates and a helmet will destroy a washing machine. But both the skates and the helmet will have a removable lining that can go in a washing machine, and socks, soft pads, jerseys, gloves, and anything that flexes will wash thoroughly.

Keep the speed of the spin low, as pads will put on a lot of weight from the water in a cycle. Clip together buckles, and stick Velcro together, or it will tear your softer clothing apart. Also, wash in cold water to avoid bleeding colors and shrinkage.


One of the safest and most methodical ways of cleaning all your gear at once is by putting it in the bath with detergent. Fill the tub halfway with cool water and add a half cup of detergent without bleach. Let the gear soak for 30 minutes, then rinse through. During rinsing, you can remove tougher stains with a sponge and some light scrubbing. Avoid spraying your gear with bleach or submerging it in water with chlorine. Corrosive chemicals will discolor the fabric and damage stitching.

Solid Equipment — Helmet, Skates, and Solid Pads


The solid shell of the skates and the helmet can be wiped down and sprayed with deodorant. Wet wipes are gentle enough to use on stencils and are antibacterial. You can use the wipes inside the helmet shell and the skate shell.

Wipes will also work well on solid pads and can also clean the straps that hold them on to you. You can spray a little disinfectant on to the wipe as you go.


Deodorant sprays are amazing for freshening up your hockey gear. You can buy sprays specifically for helmets or shoes. This method is effective at killing the remaining bacteria on the shell and making them smell nice in the process.


The dishwasher is not an ideal solution for all gear, but sometimes there is nothing better when it comes to cleaning small pieces. Don’t use dishwashing tabs or other types of soap, as these can damage both your gear and your dishwasher.

Choose a setting on the dishwasher that keeps the temperature high but not steaming. When the machine finishes the cycle, remove the gear, and dry it as explained below.

Goalie Gear

Gloves, Solid Protectors, and Pads

Goalie gear can have many impact-absorption layers, and the glue holding them together can separate when wet. It’s better to sponge off or wipe these types of protection pads and avoid submerging them in water.

Goalie Mask

The mask may have your team logo on it, and putting it into a dishwasher may cause some damage. Instead, remove any inner sweat lining and wash with care. The solid part of the mask is easy to wipe down with disinfectant.


A good dryer can make a huge difference in reducing the odor on your gear. Soaking your gear in water from your washing machine will help, but the fabric will hold some bacteria and water, and you don’t want to put the wet gear into a sports bag before it’s dry.

You can use a regular clothes dryer on low heat to dry out most gear. Another option is to simply leave your gear out to dry after rinsing off the soap. You can speed up the drying process by sponging excess water off with towels. Then, find a place that’s warm and dry, separating the gear and giving it space to drip-dry.

You can also invest in a special dryer to dry out your boots and helmet. Some dryers come with an air hose that can be placed into the helmet and base of the skate to remove moisture. Others can also come with complete racks and a collapsible tent to form a drying zone. This is a fast way to dry out gear without damaging or shrinking anything.

Too Much Effort?

All this cleaning is going to sound like a lot of effort, and the temptation is there to spray everything down with deodorant and leave it in your gear bag. The bacteria do not have to smell to be a problem, and infections are no joke.

Make a routine of cleaning your gear, so you don’t have to clean everything all at once. Wear a base layer so you can get away with a less vigorous cleaning routine, and consider buying a dryer to prevent mold and to kill off bacteria in those hard-to-reach places. Have questions about hockey gear and equipment? Contact us today.