How to Clean Smelly Sports Gear


Vicky asked: How can I clean and deodorize my smelly ice hockey gear? I have tried putting it in a freezer (cold kills most bacteria) for a week, but it’s still smelly. I tried putting it in my washing machine, but the gear doesn’t fit well. I am thinking of soaking it in a vinegar/water solution, but I’m scared it may not dry in time. We play every week. Help! I hate the smell!

You can indeed use vinegar – but it will probably take a while to dry if you soak it. Read on for proper cleaning instructions.

Washing Pieces that Cannot be Soaked in Water

You Will Need:

  • Laundry detergent
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Soft cloths

Steps to Remove the Odors:

  1. Fill the spray bottle with a mixture of water and detergent.
  2. Spray the surface of the sports gear with the soapy water.
  3. Allow it to set on the surface for several minutes.
  4. Blot the surface with a clean cloth to remove.
  5. Spray clean water on to rinse and blot it away with a clean cloth.
  6. Repeat until all of the soap is removed.

Washable Pieces

You Will Need:

  • Laundry detergent
  • Water
  • Tub or large bin
  • Vinegar or baking soda (or both for bad odors)
  • Fan (optional)

Steps to Remove the Odors:

  1. Remove the foam pads if possible.
  2. Fill the tub or bin with warm water.
  3. Add laundry detergent to the water and agitate the water to mix it in.
  4. If the odors are bad, you can also add vinegar or baking soda to the water. Vinegar will be easier to rinse off.
  5. Place all washable parts of the gear into the water.
  6. Push it up and down in the water to get the water moving through it.
  7. Allow the pieces to soak in the soapy water for several hours.
  8. Remove the pieces and rinse with clean water.
  9. Gently squeeze the excess liquid out.
  10. Hang each piece to dry or lay it flat on a towel.
  11. A fan can be used to dry the pieces more quickly.
  12. Once dry, the pieces will be ready to use.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If the pieces can be machine washed, that will be much faster and remove more of the water. Add vinegar to the wash cycle to help remove odors.
  • Prevention is key when it comes to smelly sports gear. Airing out each piece as soon as possible after use eliminates the moisture necessary for smelly mold and bacteria to grow.
  • Silica gel pack dessicant can be placed inside of gloves to remove excess moisture that can lead to odors.
  • Do NOT use harsh chemicals, such as bleach, on padding or foam. It will break down the fibers and weaken the material.
  • Most foam paddings cannot be washed enough to remove the bacteria and mold once it has started to grow. If there is mold and/or bacteria growing in your padding pieces, they may need to be replaced. Regular cleanings will help prolong the life and put off the need for replacement.
  • To control odors, spray the surfaces with vinegar or sprinkle them with baking soda. Do not apply both or it will foam up and leave a sticky mess on the surface.


  1. Chaz says:

    I’m a goalie and know your situation all too well. I’ve found that a solid washing before the season is a good way to start. After that, keep a spray can of Lysol in your hockey bag. After every game or practice, spray down your equipment, put it in the bag, take it home, and then take the gear out of the bag to air dry. This will kill the bacteria, allow the gear to dry, and keep you relatively odor-free for the length of the season.

  2. Sam says:

    I don’t like putting my son’s hockey equipment in the washing machine. I did it once and I completely killed his pads. The foam wasn’t the same and part of the pads even ripped. I always air out his equipment after a game or practice, which is the best trick for at home! But once a month, I go to the Sani Sport in the arena pro shop to have his hockey equipment put in their hockey equipment cleaning machine. It doesn’t hurt the pads or use water. I would really recommend this. It takes getting the bacteria out to a whole different level. You can even see their lab results on their website:

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