Tips for Cleaning and Disinfecting Sports Gear

Even before COVID-19 came to town, sports gear was a breeding ground for bacteria and odors. With a return to sports on the horizon, it’s never been more important to get into a routine of cleaning and disinfecting your child’s equipment.

Washing Sports Clothes and Uniforms

Unless your child is wrestling in ancient Greece, they are likely wearing some sort of uniform to game and practices. Use the following tips from The New York Times to thoroughly disinfect and sanitize sports clothes:

  • More detergent doesn’t mean cleaner clothes. In fact, using too much detergent and laundry boosters like fabric softener can lead to a build-up that actually absorbs more odor.
  • Throw a cup of white vinegar in with a half-dose of laundry detergent to eliminate odors and wash away build-up.
  • Wash sports clothes inside out in cold water with sports specific detergents. Toss in a quarter or half cup of vinegar or baking soda for the particularly pungent loads.
  • Air dry elastic clothing like football and baseball pants.

Washing Pads and Gear

The best way to maintain sterile, odorless gear is to spray and dry it regularly after use. However, everything needs a periodic deep clean.

  • Spray gear with Force of Nature, Clear Gear, or a similar product on the EPA’s Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) list.
    Allow the gear to air dry.
  • Pads and bags can be washed in the washing machine using the detergent guidelines above. Use gentle settings on top load washers, as the mixer may knick or damage equipment. Set the washer for a large load, pre-wash, and heavy soil level.
  • Wash football shoulder pads in a pillowcase with the open end tied.
  • Do not machine dry sports equipment as it can lead to warping and malfunction. Instead, hang dry or place on a rack and use a fan to circulate airflow.
  • Helmets: wipe down and spray regularly, paying close attention to chin guards. To deep clean, fill a bathtub with warm water and baby shampoo and use a sponge or toothbrush to scrub nooks and crannies.
  • Skates, cleats, and shoes: Spray and air dry immediately after use. Insoles can be removed and machine washed, and periodically replaced as needed.

Sterilizing Equipment

Some sports require athletes to touch and share the same equipment. If that’s the case, it’s important to have a plan in place to sterilize equipment and the players using it.

  • Encourage players to properly wash hands before and after practice, and keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in the dugout, on the bench, or in the locker room.
  • Use sprays and wipes on the EPA’s Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) list or make your own CDC recommended cleaning solution: 5 tablespoons (⅓ cup) bleach per gallon of water.
  • Per CDC COVID-19 guidelines: “Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces … at least daily, or between uses as much as possible. Use of shared objects and equipment (e.g., balls, bats, gymnastics equipment) should be limited, or cleaned between use by each individual if possible.”
  • Reduce the need for shared equipment by encouraging each athlete to use their own batting helmets, balls, bats water bottles, towels, etc.
  • Clearly label all gear to avoid mix-ups.

Designate a parent volunteer to frequently disinfect shared items at games and practices.

Repost from SportsEngine. Written by Sam Wigness, Contributor at SportsEngine Inc.

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