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Sports Smell – How to Kill It

Sports Smell – How to Kill It
Published: 2022-07-18
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Our SportsEdTV community parents have asked for cleaning solutions to pungent sports bouquets that drift from after-game sports bags to home.

Their requests and the following collection of sports equipment cleaning hints assembled through experience and point-and-click research serve as sources.

Sweat, dirt, half-eaten sandwiches, week-old mac-'n-cheese open cups, and surprising other things which may have lived in those equipment carry-alls are among the culprits.

For me, the subject triggered the memory of my penslinger Gemini twin throwing a tantrum as high school administrators vetoed his winning graduation essay that celebrated the locker room perfume his three sports lettering brother's socks and Chuck Taylor foot limousines forever wafted.

Stink Free Cleaning

The Three Step Process

Soak

Some protective equipment contains foam which if odors permeate soaking is especially required in this step, but all non-leather gear can always benefit from a stink-ectomy soaking. 

You need a bucket or pan, baking soda, white vinegar, and room temperature water.   Baking soda and white vinegar have been a smell and stain removal staple forever, it seems.  The mixture has reliable results. 

Baking soda used alone used in shoes has also proven to be effective in removing odor, especially those shoes—surely leather--that soaking would harm.  Evenly shake a tablespoon of baking soda into each shoe and wait a few hours, perhaps overnight or even 24 hours for extreme cases.  The baking soda will soak up the odors and kill the bacteria causing the stink.

Then place the equipment (knee pads, sweatbands, socks, etc) in the bucket or pan and evenly coat each item with vinegar.  Next, sprinkle baking soda on the items. They should start to fizz, a reaction that is working on the stink bacteria.  Allow that step to percolate for several minutes, even an hour, and then add room temperature water enough so the items are fully covered.  Soak for a few hours, up to 24.

Wash

Rinse the vinegar/baking soda soak residue away from the pre-soaked equipment.  

Decide whether to machine or hand wash items.  Some materials prescribe handwashing only.  Check instructions for washing preferences. 

To hand wash gently work a detergent through the material and when clean, thoroughly rinse the item.

To machine wash with normal detergent, a delicate bag is recommended but not necessary, avoid washing in the hot cycle.  The cold or warm cycle is best as are the machine's low spin and delicate settings.

Remember, heat is the enemy of elasticity and shrinkage.  

Dry

Padded equipment should be air dried. Air drying is usually best for all equipment.

Plan to allow 12 hours for padded drying.  

Machine drying when appropriate or necessary should be done on a tumble dry setting. 

Bag Smell

Gym bags can all start smelling unpleasant over time. Fortunately, there are many ways to remove this odor and keep your bags smelling like new. If your bag is washable, a thorough cleaning in the machine can keep it smelling fresh.

Also, wipe the inside of the bag with a vinegar solution to remove smells. Make a 1:1 solution of warm water and white vinegar. Add a drop of dish soap and stir it to make some suds. Then dip a clean sponge or rag into the mixture and squeeze it out. Scrub the inside of the bag with the damp sponge or rag, rewetting it as needed

Leave the bag outside to air it out. Sometimes, a good airing out is all a bag needs to smell better. Open the bag up and leave it outside for a day. Check it after a few hours to see if the smell has improved. If so, you don’t have to take further steps to mask odors

Shoes Smell

Sweating feet leaving lingering odor in athletic shoes is a common source of stink.  Prevention is a good start in avoiding the shoes smell.  Also if you can, using a second pair so shoes can have a day off to air is a good preventative measure.

Washing your feet thoroughly, especially on sweatier days. Foot bacteria are always multiplying, so you need to give your feet a solid scrub to eliminate odor. Soap up your soles and between the toes. Make sure your feet are completely dry before putting your shoes on.

The stink is about bacteria and killing the bacteria is a goal.  Try wrapping in a plastic bag and put in the freezer overnight.  Another way is to spray rubbing alcohol into the shoe.

Baking soda used alone used in shoes has also proven to be effective in removing odor, especially those shoes—surely leather--that soaking would harm.  Evenly shake a tablespoon of baking soda into each shoe and wait a few hours, perhaps overnight or even 24 hours for extreme cases.  The baking soda will soak up the odors and kill the bacteria causing the stink.

 

Smelly Sports Braces

Cleaning sports braces depends on the type of brace. For a simple sleeve or brace without metal components, it’s probably safe to launder every few days. For a larger brace (for example an ACL or OA brace) with a metal structure, wipe it down with a damp washcloth or baby wipe after each day..

Most braces come with a set of cleaning instructions that you should follow. For most of them, a mild soap or laundry detergent and cold water will do the trick. Allow the brace to air-dry, or leave it out in the sun to freshen up. 

For athletic braces that get heavy use, you can also spray lightly or wipe them with disinfectant and allow them to air-dry. Avoid storing braces in a gym bag or other area that does not get good ventilation and avoid putting the brace away dirty or damp.

Smelly Sports Personals

Sports uniforms and personals that are in contact with the skin endure a lot of wear and tear as sweat and body odor transfer to the uniform during game play. To keep uniforms and personals smelling clean, it is important to incorporate cleaning elements that also deodorize the uniforms. 

Turn on the washing machine, using a warm water cycle and large load size so the uniform or uniforms can move freely. Add in a capful of your regular laundry detergent. Pour about 1 cup of baking soda into the water. This will deodorize and boost cleaning power. Also add in 1 cup of white vinegar, which disinfects and deodorizes. Allow the wash cycle to finish and dry the uniforms as you normally would.

These helpful hints to our millions of SportsEdTV viewers may not constitute an essay in the pure sense of the word.  They are a service, a response to community requests. 

Nevertheless, Penslinger takes particular glee in finally penning an article about raunchy, foul-smelling socks, shoes, and whatevers smelly sports gear.  

Like popcorn smells invoke memories of first kisses at the movies, the pungent locker room fragrance triggers court buzzer beater memories for many.

So before I clean my soft-spike green savers, I may just take a whiff.