Just about every action sport starts with a helmet, and why not? Your brain is by far your most valuable organ; it needs protection. Most of us just wear our bike/skate/derby/snow helmets day in and day out and rarely give them a second thought. However, exposure to chemicals found in such personal care products such as sunscreen, skin lotions, and insect repellent can damage a helmet’s protective capacity. So a clean helmet not only smells and looks better than a dirty helmet, a regular cleaning might also extend its useful life. Remember that every helmet will eventually need to be replaced. Check out the When to Replace Your Helmet article in our All About Helmets / Helmet Gear Guide Home Page to learn whether it’s time for you to replace your helmet. Here are our helmet cleaning tips:
- Only use warm water and gentle soap (think baby shampoo) to clean your helmet.
- Avoid solvents and any petroleum-based cleaners, as they can weaken the foam liner and the shell.
- Hand wash the helmet in a sink and rinse with cold water. We’ve heard of some cyclists who wear their helmets into the shower, but we think that might make it difficult to wash your hair (but if you’re sporting the bald look, go for it!).
- Let the helmet air dry, preferably in the sun.
- WARNING: Do not put your helmet in the dryer or attempt to dry it out with a hair dryer. The heat will weaken the shell and compromise the integrity of the adhesives. And don’t put it in the microwave either. (Yes, people have done that and, no, it doesn’t work.)
GENERAL PROTECTIVE GEAR CARE TIPS
- After a ride/session/practice, don’t store your gear in a bag or the trunk of your car. Just don’t. It will turn your gear into a Petri dish for stink.
- Air out your gear after you use it (in the sun, if possible)
- Use a cloth or towel to dab out the excess sweat in the helmet pads immediately after use (not necessary, but it helps)
- Use only mild soap and water to clean helmets, pads or body armor
- For excessively smelly gear, wash with water and a little bit of white vinegar (especially gear made with polypropylene, which tends to repel water)
- Clean and inspect your gear regularly to check for general wear and tear. For additional details, check our our article titled, How to Inspect Your Helmet, or our page that describes How to Inspect Your Elbow Pads and Knee Pads.