What’s the best way to clean athletic helmets and pads?

March 16, 2017

Yes, you can wash and disinfect them with the right system!


Q & A with Steve Leib
Sports Laundry Systems, Oshkosh, Wis.

As sales director for Sports Laundry Systems, Leib shares his knowledge of equipment and athletic laundry/gear care – ever urging athletic programs to install laundry solutions that clean and disinfect.

Q: Why would a high school or college want to clean athletic helmets and protective pads in-house?
A: It’s necessary to clean and disinfect helmets and pads for a few of reasons.

1. First, by properly cleaning your team’s helmets and pads, you’ll prevent the equipment from harboring staph, MRSA and other bacteria, as well as viruses and molds. Gear that’s disinfected helps prevent the spread of infection and works to protect the health of your players, coaches and organization.

2. Second, clean and disinfected helmets and pads may save you money. National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) recommends organizations adopt and follow a program of helmet inspection and reconditioning that meets their particular needs, based on age and size of players, severity of helmet usage, ages of helmets, among other factors. Some schools recondition and recertify their football helmets every year; some every two years. Most athletic programs send a percentage of their helmets and pads in for recertification every year. An athletic reconditioning/recertification company takes helmets and pads through a number of steps, including inspection, cleaning, sanitizing, buffing/painting, repairs and NOCSAE Certification. By cleaning and disinfecting helmets and pads in-house, you may save on reconditioning/recertification costs – returning those dollars to your program’s bottom line.

3. Third, nasty biohazards and grime are removed so protective helmets and pads don’t break down as quickly. Gear looks better and lasts longer!

Q: Cleaning helmets and pads seems like a huge job. What’s the most efficient way to get them clean?
A: Invest in a highly programmable washer-extractor offering complete control over mechanical action, rotation, automatic chemical injection, ozone injection and extract speed. Most washers – even when they are programmable – don’t allow this level of control. Sports Laundry System Washers with the Inteli Control do provide total control. Here’s the process:

1. First, the washer is programmed to deliver the proper pre-treat soak, mechanical/rotation action, water temperatures, cycle times, chemistry and ozone injection. The washer drum should only rotate a quarter turn so helmets aren’t damaged during the cleaning process. This is the same reason g-force is programmed at a very low rate and that extract speeds remain gentle and slow.

2. Second, helmets are washed together without the removal of the attached padding. This is critical. If the padding is removed and not reattached properly, player injuries could result. Similarly, shoulder pads, knee pads, shin guards and elbow pads can all be washed together following the same control parameters (Ozone injection, ¼ rotation, low G-force extract). Just remember, wash like items together.

3. Third, washer operation is easy because everything can be pre-programmed to a facility’s specific needs. Open the washer, load it with helmets or pads, close the washer door, enter the program number and press start. The washer does the rest.

4. When the wash process completes in around 18 minutes, open the washer door and allow the helmets/pads to air dry.


Q: How many helmets can you fit in one load?
A: That depends on the capacity of the washer. Take a look at the sizing graphic below as it provides a great overview.

Q: You talk a lot about ozone. Why is it important as part of the cleaning process?
A: A programmable ozone system that works in tandem with the programmable washer will clean and disinfect athletic laundry, helmets and pads. Ozone gas attaches to and breaks down organic materials like soils, bacteria, molds and greases. Ozone works best in cold water, and since ozone leaves only oxygen behind, it is also environmentally friendly.

Q: Do you buy the washing machines and ozone systems separately?
A: It’s best to purchase a system that includes washers, ozone injection and dryers. Look for a system that is proven to disinfect, offers validated ozone and superior washer programmability.

To discover more about athletic laundry solutions, visit www.sportslaundry.com or contact Steve Leib at 920-230-8546. See a Sports Laundry System in action as it takes on football helmets and pads at www.sportslaundry.com/videos.


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