If you enjoy sports at a competitive level, you need to look well turned out and professional. If you’re smart, clean and ready for action, the chances of success in the sporting arena increase substantially.
But all too often, a clean sports kit is an afterthought. And in some cases, people forget about their dirty kit until it’s time to put it on. Not only does this look bad, but it also accelerates the degradation of your gear.
Depending on the sport you’re involved in, your sports kits could end up in a terrible state on a regular basis. If you play a contact sport such as rugby or football, for example, your gear could be caked in mud almost every week Add blood, sweat and tears to the mix, and you have a recipe for laundry-based disaster.
If you’re involved in a club or a team, the need for a quality, well-presented kit might be as important as turning up for training each week. Your reputation — and maybe your performance — depends on looking presentable and professional.
With all this in mind, we’ve put together a series of tips for keeping your sports equipment clean and odour-free. But first, here are a few reasons why regular, effective cleaning is a necessity for all sports kits.
Cleaning removes bad odours
Even after washing, a sports kit can be smelly. After all, you’re probably sweating profusely in it regularly. If you’re playing contact sports, the last thing you want is to smell bad on the field of play.
Cleaning removes bacteria
The levels of bacteria on dirty sports kit are off the scale. And they’re potentially harmful to your health — as well as the health of those around you.
Cleaning prolongs the life of your sports kits
Stains often spell the end for a sports kit. However, if you react to them quickly and in the right way, you can significantly prolong the lifespan of your sporting garments.
How to clean dirty sports kits
After strenuous competition, the last thing you probably feel like doing is the laundry. This is why so many competitors dump their kit bag in a dark corner the moment they arrive home. But this is simply making life harder for yourself in the long run.
As soon as you’re home, soak your dirty kit immediately. This removes a lot of the mud and stains before they set in. If there’s a lot of dirt to remove, it might be worth taking a hosepipe to your kit. Hang it on a clothesline, and give it a good blasting.
The next step is to fill a large vessel, bucket, sink or bath with warm water and a little laundry detergent. If you’re worried about stains, treat the affected areas with a proven strain-removal agent first. Leave your kit to soak in warm, soapy water for an hour or two.
If the stains you’re worried about were caused by mud or dirt, soaking alone should suffice. However, if you’re dealing with blood or grass, your approach should be a little different.
Treating grass strains on sports kit
Mud and dirt are fine, but grass can cause you and your sports kit some serious problems. The sap in grass contains chlorophyll, which is filled with a stubborn green pigment. This is the substance that causes those dreaded green stains. If your kit is made from synthetic fibres, removing this green staining shouldn’t be too difficult.
Treating a grass stain should start the moment you remove your kit. Try to keep the stain wet until you’re able to treat it properly. Once it dries, it’s a lot more difficult to remove.
Turn the garment inside out, and rinse it thoroughly. Make sure you remove any excess dirt and debris. This ensures you “push” the stain out, rather than pushing it further into the fabric.
To remove the stain, you’ll need a proven stain-removal agent. For the best results, it should be applied when it’s the consistency of toothpaste. Or if you want to make your own stain remover, mix some baking soda with a little white vinegar.
Working from the inside of the garment, apply the paste liberally to the back of the stain. Remember: you don’t want to push the stain further into the fabric. Apply quite a bit of pressure with a cloth or sponge. Rinse the garment again, and repeat the process if necessary.
Treating blood stains on sports kit
If you’re unfortunate enough to get blood on your kit, swift action is needed if you’re going to prevent a permanent stain. Blood is full of proteins that bind together when heat is applied. This is why blood is often very difficult to remove from fabric.
Try to keep the stain wet for as long as possible. Before you throw it in the wash, use a sponge to rub a little laundry detergent into the affected area. You can add a little stain remover if you run into difficulties. Washing-up liquid is also an effective stain remover. If the stain persists after a hot wash, create a paste of baking soda and white vinegar. Apply it liberally, and leave it to soak up the stain for an hour or two.
Washing sports kits
Always check the washing instructions on the label of your sports garments before washing. Ideally, you should use the hottest setting possible on your machine. Even sweat marks can set in if they’re not dealt with immediately, and decisively.
Performing at the top of your game requires a sports kit that feels great against your skin. Unfortunately, there are some laundry products on the market that can cause skin irritations. Use a dermatologically approved detergent that is proven to offer protection for people with sensitive skin.
Tip: If your sports kit is particularly mucky, you might need a helping hand. Pour a cup of white vinegar onto your laundry before you start your machine. This is perfect for making whites even whiter.
Cleaning boots and footwear
If you wear specialised footwear, you should clean it after every use. The longer you leave it, the more difficult cleaning becomes. Never wear dirty boots for sports like rugby and football. You won’t get the grip you need, and the risk of injuring yourself will increase significantly.
When the mud is still damp, remove the laces. Use a sponge or a soft-bristled brush to remove large clumps of dirt. Use a little warm water and dishwashing detergent for cleaning. Once clean, stuff your boots with paper towels to remove any residual moisture. And leave them outside to air-dry if the weather permits.
Tip: Don’t clean sports boots with heat. This can cause leather and leather alternatives to harden and crack.
The trick to keeping your sports kits clean is fast action. The quicker you can start cleaning, the easier the job is. Always prepare what you need in advance. Before you set off, gather together all the tools and cleaning agents you’re going to need. And wherever possible air-dry everything.
If you stay vigilant and disciplined, you should be able to keep your kits in great condition. And you’ll be able to prolong their lifespan in the process.