Gentlemen, we need to talk. We have a problem. Some of you smell really bad. Really, really bad.
You need to know that you can wash your equipment.
I know some guys are panicking right now. I will de-mystify equipment care and give all the information you need. We can get through this together.
MYTH #1: HOCKEY STANK IS A MALE RITE OF PASSAGE
No, dudes. You are just making the eyes of female players burn. We totally talk about you in the locker room, too. I've heard: "Men are disgusting with their equipment" and that not only do some guys stink "it's like they're proud of it, too!" If this might be you, let's clean up the gear and not be offensive to others.
MYTH #2: AIRING GEAR OUT IS ENOUGH
No, dudes. Your hockey gear is a petri dish of germs. There is a host of bacteria and maybe even fungus living in your dirty gear; that is why it smells bad. Sweat, snot, slobber and tears from that shot on net you missed -- from you and probably other players -- are all collected in one disgusting mass. Air is not going to make all of that just go away. You should air dry your equipment after use, and you should wash your equipment periodically to clean out the scum.
MYTH #3: WASHING EQUIPMENT MAY DAMAGE IT
We can easily de-bunk this concern. Your gear is getting drenched in gallons of your salty, acrid, soaking wet sweat every time you skate. Your gear is not going to dissolve in soap and water. I promise.
Now that we have gotten over the hard part, washing your gear is pretty easy. It is good to give your gear a run through a washing machine at least every few months. If it is smells really bad, wash your gear more frequently. I have found a large, side-loading washing machine to be the most helpful way to get a load of gear washed well and at once.
HOW TO WASH YOUR HOCKEY EQUIPMENT
Take your shoulder pads /chest protector, elbow pads, hockey pants, and pull the inside pads of your shin guards out (they velcro in place) and put them in a large machine. Close all velcro closures to reduce anything snagging surface fabrics of other items and discourage it all from getting too tangled up. These items can all go in the wash together. Don't worry about anything breaking, either. The washing machine is more gentle than the last time you wiped out on the ice.
I like to wash jerseys, socks, base layers and jills/jocks together in a separate load because the protective gear has so much heavy velcro, it is best kept away from anything softer it can snag. Heavy velcro will grab really hard onto knitted hockey socks. Close any velcro firmly to prevent or reduce things being snagged or stuck together in the wash cycle. I usually turn jerseys inside out to protect the logos and numbers from wear and tear a little more. Jockstrap cups should be taken out of shorts or base layer pants and can be washed by hand with laundry detergent or dish liquid.
Compression base layers have some fussy guidelines. I have the Bauer compression base layer and it indicates to wash it inside out, with the zipper and velcro both closed and absolutely do not put it in a drier. It is a blend of polyester, spandex and Kevlar and would probably melt if hot enough.
Once everything has gotten a good wash through the machine -- a regular wash cycle is fine -- hang up your gear and let it dry. A folding clothes drying rack is helpful for a lot of base layer pieces and hockey socks. I set it in the tub so it is out of my way. Everything else just goes on cheap, ordinary plastic tube hangers and hangs on the shower rod in the bathroom.
Since they are rigid, you need to hand wash the exterior of your shin guards. A few inches of warm water and some laundry detergent in the bathtub is good. Swish them around in for several minutes and get the detergent working. Lather the elastic straps to get them clean. Rinse the shin guards with plenty of running water to rinse out all of the suds and let them air dry.
Are you getting forehead pimples? It's time to de-grease the interior of your helmet. A paper towel with some rubbing alcohol is a good cleaner to wipe down the inside of the helmet, the straps and the face cage. AFR Solution spray and a soft, lint-free cloth works well to get sweat and oils off clear "fishbowl" face shields.
Gloves are one tricky item, because many styles of hockey gloves have leather. My gloves are fabric with suede palms. I have different reports from female players who have washed gloves -- even with leather -- with no problems. You are at your discretion with your gloves. I recommend infrequent washing for mostly fabric gloves. Using a germ-killing, de-odorizing spray made for sports gear would be good for more routine maintenance on gloves and maybe the only product to use on all leather gloves.
My usual All Free and Clear laundry detergent was not working well. (It works well on my regular clothes but not well on heavy sweat stuck on synthetic fabrics.) Out of the regular detergents easily available in a grocery store, I recommend Tide with Bleach Alternative. Bleach Alternative or "color safe bleach" is usually just hydrogen peroxide, a non-caustic germ killer that will not cause colors to fade.
New, better products specifically made for sports equipment and technical fabrics are starting to come out on the market with a diverse selection. Read the label of any sports detergent you may want to buy and make sure that anything you buy does not "restore water repellency" -- it may have an oil or silicone additive made to keep outdoor and running gear water repellent. I would not want that coating my hockey gear. I will soon be reviewing some spots products including de-odorizing sprays and sports specific detergents recommended for hockey gear.
◙ UPDATE 9/13/2015 I have found a laundromat with larger, side loading commercial machines that take 60 and 80 pounds of laundry. I have put the shin guard exteriors (the hard, outer shell) in the wash with the other gear and they have been fine. I still separate the inner liner so the whole piece of equipment gets very clean.
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