How to stop Hockey Equipment from Stinking! A guide to Get the Smell out

wash your hockey equipment

by Jeremy Rupke on January 1, 2013

Now that it is halfway through the season your hockey equipment has likely acquired a wonderful and unique odour, a stench that would put a skunk to shame. Don’t worry, I am here to help, in this article I will teach you how to prevent (or delay) your hockey equipment from stinking, and also how to get the stink out of hockey equipment once it starts to smell. Stinky hockey equipment is a normal problem that almost every hockey player has, luckily I have found a few easy ways to deal with it.

Don’t forget to check out my video at the bottom of this article

Tip 1 – Stink Prevention: Step One Create a Layer

There are a few ways to prevent your hockey equipment from smelling in the first place, I have discovered these methods over about 20 years of playing hockey.

Put a layer between you and your gear – I didn’t discover this trick until a few years ago when I got my first under armour shirt to wear under my hockey equipment. I noticed that by wearing it and airing it out my hockey equipment stunk a lot less. I think this works on a few different levels. #1 it absorbs a lot of your sweat and helps it evaporate (so all your sweat doesn’t soak into your hockey equipment) and #2 it is a layer between you and your equipment, this helps stop any dead skin, grease, etc to getting onto your gear (bacteria will feed on that stuff)

Player recommendation – I only use an Under Armour shirt, but a friend of mine says he uses the entire under armour layer (or a base layer from Bauer) to cover his entire body. He said that he airs it out and washes it regularly and he has never had a problem with his hockey equipment smelling.

Tip 2 – Stink Prevention: Step two Air that Stuff out!

I highly recommend wearing something between you and your hockey equipment as it makes step two a lot easier. Now that you have played a good game of hockey your hockey equipment will be damp. You need to air it out otherwise it will stink! Airing out your hockey equipment is one of the most important steps here. Here is what I do

  • Hang up my Under Armour
  • Hang up my jock
  • Pull out my shin pads, padding side up
  • Hang up my elbow pads
  • Put my skates so the foot hole is facing out of the bag (if they are really wet you can take the insoles out)
  • Hang up my socks

Usually I keep my socks, jock and Under Armour in the side pocket of my bag so I can pull them all out at once.

What to hang your gear on?

You can buy some cheap shelving units if you have a place to set it up, a sports drying rack is also an option (links included in the product section below), I use the Gear Monkey, you could build something similar if you use your imagination.

Tip 3 – How to Get the Smell OUT of your Hockey Equipment

After a while it seems your hockey equipment will start to smell no matter what you do. By implementing the steps above my actual equipment rarely ever smells, I just wash my jock, socks and Under Armour and the rest of my stuff is fine. If your hockey equipment smells there is a very easy way to clean it

Put it in the wash machine!

Yes, it is that easy. A lot of people are scared to put their hockey equipment in the wash machine, but I have put mine in a top loader, and front loader and have never had problems (well one problem, but I will mention that so you don’t make the same mistake)

Tip – If your hockey equipment REALLY stinks rinse it first buy filling the wash machine, letting it soak, draining it, and then put it through a proper wash cycle.

What Hockey Equipment can go in the wash?

  • Socks, jerseys, Under Armour
  • Jock (take the cup out first and do the Velcro up so it doesn’t stick to everything)
  • Shin pads
  • Hockey Pants
  • Elbow pads
  • Shoulder pads
  • Gloves

Stuff that CANT go in the wash

  • Helmet
  • Skates

Washing machine warnings – If you have Velcro straps try to attach them to their Velcro partner, otherwise you can end up with a birds nest of equipment.
Do not use bleach.
Bleach can deteriorate your padding, I used it once with my old hockey pants and the foam started falling out of my torn and ripped pants (I had them for 10 years anyways). Out of the 10 years I have been washing my hockey equipment in the wash machine this is the only time I have wrecked anything.
Top loading machines may rip some equipment if you don’t allow enough room for the hockey equipment to move.

Tip 4 – Putting hockey equipment in the dryer – Drying out Hockey Equipment

I don’t like to put any of my equipment in the dryer however it is fine to put your socks, jock, jerseys and Under Armour in there. I have put my hockey gloves, and elbow pads in the dryer before however I think it is not good for the leather palm.

How to dry your hockey equipment

The easiest way to dry out all your gear after you have put it through the wash is to simply leave it out to dry and point a fan at it. If your hockey equipment still feels fairly wet after going through the wash you can move it around a bit (to re-balance the load) and run it through the spin cycle one more time and then put it out to dry.

Tip 5 – Products that will help

There are a lot of products available, not everyone has a back room or a lot of space to store and air out their hockey equipment. Here are a few products I have tried, used, or have heard great things about that will help you keep your hockey equipment smelling good. Most of them are available for purchase at GoalieMonkey.com

  • Rocket Dryer – I have heard great things about this from A LOT of guys on hockey forums. This is the ideal product for people in apartments or traveling in hotels and need to dry the gear out quickly. With the Rockey Dryer you simply hang all your gear up on a carousel type hanger, then put the big nylon type cover over it and turn on the fan. It quickly dries out everything. It has a timer, heating system, and a carrying case for road games.
    Sells for $149.99 on Amazon (currently on sale for $119.99)
  • Gear Monkey – This is what I use to hang all my stuff up, it doesn’t take up too much space and can be hung in a lot of spots
    $69.99 from GearMonkey.ca
  • Shelving unit – A cheap wire shelving unit or a better quality plastic one is good for storage, and also good to lay your equipment out on between games and practices.
    $49 on Amazon or get the smaller metal rack for cheaper
  • Hockey Equipment Drying Rack – These racks sell for about $50 a piece and are good to tuck in your furnace room or garage and hang your equipment on. If you use one of these in a room without much air circulation I would recommend turning a fan on for about an hour to help dry the stuff out a bit faster.
    $44.99 on Amazon – Looks fairly sturdy and has four 5 star review
  • Hockey Equipment Spray – I’ve used a few sports sprays but only noticed short-term results. The only thing that has worked in the long run is drying the stuff out and washing it (as described above) when the smell accumulates. If your equipment doesn’t smell that bad or you need something to tie you over while at a tournament this stuff should work. It has the highest rating on Amazon.
    $9.99 on Amazon – Seems to be the best based on the reviews

Tip 6 – Getting the smell out of Hockey Gloves

Put them in the wash machine!

Trust me I used to fight with really filthy smelling gloves and I tried all the sprays and “tricks” but nothing really got the smell out EXCEPT washing them. I started washing my gloves with all my other gear a few times a year and my gloves have been smelling fine ever since. (don’t put them in the dryer though, it dries out the palms)

Tip 7 – Getting the smell out of hockey skates

Hockey skates are tough to wash because of their design.

Prevention – The best thing you can do (a tip from a power skating instructor who spends almost all day in his skates) is take the insole out after each game or practice and let them dry out completely. Taking the insole out helps get all the moisture out. I also like to wear fresh socks in my skates, this keeps the built up odours already in your shoes and boots from getting into your skates. I use thinees (thin socks for hockey) and air them out each time. After about 4 times of using and airing them out I wash them or swap them with another fresh pair I have in my hockey bag.

Taking out the insoles also helps keep your rivets from rusting.

Dealing with Contaminated skates – If your skates already stink you can try some of the special sports gear sprays to neutralize the odour, or just spray and wipe the insides out with a wash cloth and some vinegar and then let them dry out completely. It will take a number of treatments before you can get them to smell better, but over time the smell will get a bit better.

How to clean Hockey Equipment and Prevent Smell – Video


The video is long but covers everything you need to know

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Jeremy Rupke

Coach
Hi my name is Jeremy. I LOVE hockey and I am passionate about improving and helping others improve. My goal is to break every hockey skill down into easy to understand articles and videos. I explain everything step-by-step to help others improve. If you want to learn more about me you can read my about page. Thanks for reading and sharing!

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Jo February 25, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Wouldn’t wearing thin gloves (such as icebreaker glove for example) under the hockey glove be helpful to avoid smelly gloves?
Or at least, do you think it would protect against MRSA?

I haven’t seen players wearing such “under-glove” and I wonder why?

Reply

Jeremy Rupke March 4, 2014 at 11:02 pm

I’ve never heard of it or tried it, but I guess it could help. The best thing for stinky gloves is just tossing them in the wash machine.

Hockey Mom January 12, 2014 at 8:56 pm

I picked up a set of portable boot dryers from LL Bean a couple of years ago. I put them in my sons gloves and sometimes his skates. They came with a car adapter, which is nice for tournaments. They use radiant heat, so they do not get too hot. They are the “DryGuy” brand. They are awesome!

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Wendy November 5, 2013 at 12:28 am

Before you wash the gloves hold them over the washer and pour white vinegar into each glove, drop them in and wash. I also put a hefty dose (a couple cups) of vinegar all over the other gear before I run the load. Vinegar is cheap and it works. Don’t bother with all the other gimmicky sprays and powders and magic formulas.

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Matt October 20, 2013 at 5:23 am

I use a laundry soap called Gear Wash. Bottom line this stuff is amazing. I know how good it is because of how long it last at keeping the odor/smell out of my hockey gear.

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tamoko October 1, 2013 at 7:21 am

Thank you very much work great.
I used soap for surf neoprene, this very good to remove any smell.
From old school, just put small cotton bag with Boon Coffee in gloves, it will make good smell.

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Bill September 23, 2013 at 11:05 am

I made and now sell (shameless plug here! http://stickracking.storenvy.com/) simple, sturdy racks made from recycled hockey sticks. I put my rack next to a dehumidifier in summer and next to the radiator in winter.

Have been reluctant to use washer but may try, certainly with the gloves.

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Silvia Dunne June 3, 2013 at 9:14 am

Hey jeremy Thank you for all teh awesome advice I do have a hubby who plays but I got used to his equipment beeing stinky now my 7 yold started to play and goodness. I do appreciate your advice great stuff. Good luck to you and all teh best.

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Jim May 30, 2013 at 2:18 am

I make 4 versions of hockey racks. I see you we’re impressed with the rocket dryer. It use a heater tht produces 70 degree heat. For $120. a litle rich for my pocket book. My house is always 70 degrees. I produce the UHR short for the Ultimate Hockey Rack. It is the smallest, lightest hockey rack in the world blowing air through its pipes and its only $44.95. please take a look. http://www.ebay.com/itm/SPORTS-EQUIPMENT-HOCKEY-DRYING-RACK-TREE-with-AIR-/270875924699?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f117698db. My website is under reconstruction but I also make the goalie racks too.
Jim

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Ken March 14, 2013 at 6:32 pm

A tried & true product (I’ve tried it & verified it works as advertised) for odor elimination is: Zero Odor at http://www.zeroodor.com/about/

That stuff really works–like magic! It is a bit pricy….but….it really does work. I’ve used it for years. I’d recommend use where washing is not an option (like skates) or a temporary remedy pending washing is in order.

Like Jeremy, I’ve put leather gloves & elbow pads (& sneakers) in the washing machine with no problems since the late 1980s! Leather dries best when it dries slowly (e.g. put some crumpled newspapers inside gloves (& shoes if soaked) to force drying from the outside, helped by a fan; why this works better I don’t know, but the leather will last longer, stays softer & is less prone to cracking from drying too fast).

For larger items like shoulder pads & a girdle that won’t fit in the washing machine, I’ve used the soapy water going into the laundry drain tub (where the used soapy water goes on its way down the drain; many newer homes don’t use this approach), or the shower, then rinsed & let dry.

Wash your car, wash your gear….with the same soapy water & then the hose clean[er]; dish soap that most of us use on our cars rinses very cleanly. You can do this in a couple of minutes and it makes a big difference.

Make sure you let your stuff AIR OUT & DRY IN THE SHADE!!!!

Almost all padding & associated fabrics do NOT resisit UV (part of sunlight) degradation. Some gear will fade from direct sunlight & some won’t — regardless, the UV rays are damaging & induce chemical breakdowns leading to premature material & equipment failures. Yes, direct sunlight dries things fast–and does kill some bacteria…but…it WILL slowly destroy your gear by weaking the very chemistry holding it together.

Body oils, salts from sweat, etc., not to mention the fungi & bacteria & their waste products that cause the odors*, also contribute to slow chemical breakdown of the materials used in your gear (the anti-microbial stuff advertised a lot only slows this process down). If you like your gear & want it to last, wash it. Just plain rinsing regularly followed by good drying also makes a very big difference.

* Get that? Much of the stink from stinky gear is from bacteria excrement. Bacteria crap. Think about that.

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Jenney March 5, 2013 at 9:57 am

BLESS YOU!!!
From a new hockey mom that had no idea about”hockey stink” ; )

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Nat February 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Ink can be a minor problem, but if you are careful not too rub the sheets in your gear and select the paper accordingly, it should work. Even placing loose sheets at the bottom of your bag will help trap the moisture. That’s the idea.

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Josh February 22, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Great article, and it’s so nice when you don’t gag on your own stink when dressing.

This may be helpful for those with highly limited living space i.e. Apartment’s etc.

Using a shower curtain rail and some PLASTIC coat hangers or strong suction hooks on the tiled surface is the cheapest way to effectively air out your gear. Added bonus is the exhaust fan. helps to circulate the air and speeds drying.
A bathtub part filled with a mix of warm water and a good dose of anti-bacterial hand soap or mild shampoo like head an shoulders also works a treat for quickly hand washing the bulky gear every couple of weeks and gives it a nice fresh smell. Leave the fan running and most gear will dry overnight.

For gloves and skates I’ve always found that the faster they dry out the better so sticking them in front of a heating vent (opening to the vent) gets them toasty and dry fast!

That’s my two cents…hope it helps.

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Vicky February 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Yeah, I hate smelling at practices or games, mostly because it’s just annoying. But I found that what I wear under the gear (shirt, jock, and socks) is actually what stinks.(sometimes the jersey, too, though. I also wash my outside socks just in case.) I dump all the stuff that’s not white in the washer and wash it with the rest of my laundry and it smells fine, though. My game jerseys are pretty nice, but I’ve washed them and dried them and they looked fine afterwards, except sometimes the tie came out. No lint or anything, and our dryer is ANCIENT. About washing gear, though – I don’t know. I’ve always been told that washing gear will ruin it, no matter what gear it is.

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Vicky February 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm

A drying rack is really useful as well, though (probably why my gear doesn’t stink). I didn’t want to pay a ton of money for one, though, so I just grabbed some PVC pipes and plastic elbow/T connectors from Home Depot and made my own. It works great and fits in my bag if I need to take it apart for a tournament.

Matt February 17, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Thanks for the tips I will use those tips but what do you do if your bag smells
Because that is the problem for me. My bag smells and that is what makes my grear smell

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Bentley February 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Hey guys,

Here’s a cheap solution for keeping your gear from stinking. Buy some 99% pure isopropyl from Costco. They come in 4- 500ml bottles for about $8. Mix it half and half with distilled water or if you like tap water and put into a spray bottle. After each game spray your gear down. It kills the bacteria that causes the smell.

Special note expect your gear to take longer to dry so don’t do it if your playing back to back games.

It’s essentially a poor man’s febreze without the smell.

In fact your can use it year round for your stinking running shoes too.

Bentley.

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Gary February 2, 2013 at 7:40 am

I wash all my gear and my kids gear regularly.

Two things I learned not to do.

1/ The new front loader had a power wash cycle. It worked so well that all of my son’s equipment has a slight blue tint to it. Do NOT use the high strength wash cycle if you have it.

2/ I have washed my gloves regularly. They should go in a gentle cycle in the washer and NOT in the dryer. Air dry them or heat them through from the inside with a hair dryer. They got worn on all of the exterior surfaces.

My four year is even getting in to the act of hanging up his equipment. He hangs his skates, helmet and gloves in his room after we skate in the back yard. He says “Just like Daddy does” Let’s hope he only picks up the good habits.

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Tadas January 28, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Thanks for the great article Jeremy. Just have a couple of personal preferences to share:
1- Front loader preferred: Because gear is somewhat buoyant and tends to float above waterline in top loaders; front loader soaks better and thus seems to clean better
2- What soap to use? Found the best results from combo of 1 cup white vinegar + 1 cup washing soda (like baking soda but for laundry).
Again, thanks for this and all of the inspiring and helpful work you do Jeremy!
Cheers, Tadas

Reply

Jon January 16, 2013 at 3:36 pm

I use a fooseball table in the garage to hang my gear, shin pads, helmet and skates up top and everything else I hang from the rods on the side. Point a small space heater at it and bam perfect drying rack.

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Cliff January 14, 2013 at 10:45 am

I second the washing machine, but I did get a pretty good slice in my hockey pants once because they rubbed against the top of the basket during the cycle. The other option that has worked well for me is to put it all in a clean trash can with cold water and a little bleach [1/2 a cup in a full-sized plastic trash can], put something on top to hold the gear underwater until it soaks through, then air dry, preferably in the sun.

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Nat January 4, 2013 at 1:49 pm

To keep moisture and bacteria out of my bag and my hockey gear, right after a game, I stuff every item with newspaper sheets (shin pads, gloves, pants, helmet, skates, undergarment clothes, etc.). Yes, people look at you puzzled in the change room but ignore… ;-) When I come home, I remove all the wet newspaper sheets (you would be amaze how humidity builds up quickly) and spread my gear on top of new dry newspaper sheets to air out. It really helps.

(As a kid, my mother always insisted I stuff my winter boots with newspaper and place them beside the baseboard heater to dry them faster. That way, I could return and play in the snow right after dinner. So, the idea really comes from her and I wanted to share this in her memory. She bought me my first hockey stick and passed away a few months ago.)

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nick January 26, 2013 at 11:34 am

Wouldn’t all the wet ink stain the gear?

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