How to Clean Hockey Gear

Hockey gear smells, it’s an indisputable fact. We all know the guy who’s gear you can smell before he opens the locker room door. Don’t be that guy. No one expects you to smell like a yankee candle store, but you can take some preventative steps to minimize and correct the forecheck on our collective noses.

The absolute basics is, your gear gets sweaty, wet and full of dead skin/dirt/oil. Mold, mildew, and bacteria thrive in this kind of environment and create the fun mix of smells everyone attributes to hockey equipment. The best way to get rid of it, is to never let that bacteria take hold.

Importance of Drying Gear

The sooner you can get your gear dried out, the less time for the nastiness to take hold and spread in your bag. When you get home from hockey, have a place you can lay out or hang up your gear. Don’t forget to let the equipment bag air out as well.

At a minimum take everything out of your bag, spread out the gear and point a fan at it. The fan will help to circulate air and speed up the evaporation process.

Hanging your gear is even better… Replacing the fan with a dehumidifier really speeds up the process. The combination of these two gives you nice dry gear in as little as two hours.

I bring my gear into the house after games, I have an inexpensive wardrobe I got from Ikea to hang all my gear in, a few different hangers, and I run a dehumidifier right by the door. The next morning, I close the doors and no one’s the wiser.

You don’t need to get this fancy, the goal is just to get your gear as dry as you can, as quickly as you can. Once its dry feel free to pack it all back up ready for your next game.

Base Layers

Base layers are definitely a good idea to protect your gear. They provide a layer between your skin, sweat and oils, and your gear. They can be easily washed and buy you time between needing to wash all your protective equipment. Base layers don’t have to be expensive hockey specific ones, but anything can help.

While this is something I don’t always do, full length top and bottom base layers can help keep the dirt and oils from making it to your equipment. Since this stuff is easy to wash, let it act as a layer to protect your gear and buy you time between needing to wash all your protective equipment.

Washing Gear

If you are drying out your gear well and wearing base layers, this is something you only need to do a few times a year, depending on how often you play (or how smelly you are).

I am going to start by giving strong caution here. Everyone’s experience is different with regards to cleaning gear in the washing machine. If you have a top load machine, it likely has an agitator in the middle of the drum… it will ruin something. DO NOT use a top load washer for your protective equipment. Jerseys, pant-shells, base layers, and jock are all fine, but leave everything else for one of the other options.

A large front load washing machine is my preferred method, its fast, relatively easy, and most importantly it works. I had one bad experience flying home a bag full of wet gear. It was horrible by the time I got to it, but sure enough two good washes and it was salvaged. Sometimes you need more than one wash.

If you don’t have a front loader, you can go to a laundromat and use the largest front load machine you can find and put in a little less than the full suggested detergent amount. You can use the dryer on your gear, but keep the heat to medium at best. Alternatively just hang dry everything.

Detergent Ideas

  • Less is more! People tend to use too much and struggle to get it all back out.
  • Any detergent you have should do the trick, but the sport blend formulas do tend to work better.
  • Do Not add fabric softener, it messes with absorption/breathability of fabrics
  • Nikwax tech wash – A personal favorite of mine. Add it to the wash with your normal detergent and it really helps clean out your base layers and gear designed to quick away moisture. It wont shrink your base layers like using normal detergent.
Nikwax Tech Wash 1000ml

Here is your official warning. I have experienced my fair share of random mishaps over the years.

I ignored my own advice about not using a top load washer and it somehow managed to cut off a section of strap on my elbow pad. Another time in a small front load machine, I had one of shin pads wedge itself to the lip of the door are wear a hole straight through the knee. Also while I have had great luck washing and drying gloves, you may not be so lucky, I’ve heard a few bad stories about the different palm materials not holding up well.

Don’t have access to a large enough washing machine? Worried about ruining your expensive protective equipment? For you my friends I share the disgusting, but effective method of “Hockey Soup. Read the recipe here.

Additional Ideas

Rocket Dryer

I haven’t personally used one of these, but the logic is sound and I know a few people who have them in their garage. The best case for these I’ve heard of is taking them to hockey tournaments, they pack up small enough and you can set it up in your hotel room.

Rocket Sport Equipment Dryer

DIY hockey hangers

You have seen my solution, but parents of young kids seem to get their best results by having the children “dress” the dummy, when they get home from hockey. Also since everything has a place, you know right away when something may be missing. Great DIY project in Wood or PVC. I’ve even seen people use a hat or coat rack.

Wire Rack

I’ve also seen people use wire racks, especially in garages. the many holes allow for great airflow.

Spray your Gear

Another preventative measure for keeping your gear fresh is some hockey sprays. While there are plenty on the market, they tend to be expensive and don’t always work. Personally, Ive had luck with simple rubbing alcohol. When you lay out your gear to dry, spray it with a 70/30 mix of water and rubbing alcohol. The rubbing alcohol helps to keep the bacteria and mold from setting up camp in your pads. Doing this can help extend the times between needing to fully wash your pads. Add a fragrance if you cant stand the alcohol smell. You can also can substitute a little vinegar instead of alcohol.

91% Isopropyl Alcohol (32 fl. oz., 2 pk.)


Good luck not being the smelly guy!


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