An unpleasant odor on hockey gear is usually caused by bacteria. Throwing sweaty and moist equipment into a gym bag, without properly drying it first, can increase aromas and possibly lead to bacterial infections. Hockey gear should be washed with detergent and thoroughly dried on a regular basis, but you may also want to try eliminating the bacteria with a homemade sanitizing solution.
The state of Oregon public health department recommends a ratio of 3/4 teaspoon bleach to 1 pint of cool water to create a proper sanitizing solution. If you need more, add 1 teaspoon bleach to 1 gallon water. These proportions are suggested for the new standardized bleach concentration of 8.25% and will eliminate most common bacteria present on surfaces. Make sure to measure carefully, as too much bleach can damage fabrics. Add this solution to your laundry machine or pour into a tub to soak large items such as pads. Thoroughly rinse with clean water and dry afterwards. Don't use bleach on uniforms.
Some bacteria are not harmful at all, but certain strains can cause health problems. If sports equipment or gear has been potentially contaminated with infected skin or other players' blood, it should be disinfected. Disinfection kills more bacteria than sanitizing. The Oregon Public Health Department recommends a disinfectant solution of 2 tablespoons 8.25% bleach mixed in 1 gallon of water. Wash all gear in the solution, then rinse and dry thoroughly.
USA Hockey Magazine suggests preventing bacterial growth in the first place by drying out all equipment after use. Do not store moist hockey gear in a gym bag or dark car trunk. Equipment such as elbow pads, shin pads and shoulder pads can be washed regularly utilizing the gentle cycle of the machine. Hang the items to dry inside or outside, or put them in a dryer. The gear should be completely dry before storing.
The Capital Amateur Hockey Association recommends pouring homemade bleach solution into a spray bottle. Use the same proportions as above, adding 1/8 teaspoon bleach to 1 pint cool water. The sanitizing solution can be misted into awkward areas such as the inside of skates, gloves and helmets. Helmets can also be rinsed under a shower head if they are excessively sweaty. Make sure all equipment is dry before spraying on the bleach solution, as you do not want to increase overall moisture. Gear bags should be misted too and put out to dry in the sun. Always measure and dilute the bleach properly, as too much can damage equipment. Never mix bleach with other cleaners such as ammonia, and use only when necessary.
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