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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Sports-Related Cleaning with Bleach, Part 2

By Dr. Laundry June 11, 2009

Q. My children are lacrosse players, and I have a few sports-related stain questions:

  1. How can I deodorize sports equipment?
  2. What is safe to use on helmets and pads to provide protection against MRSA?
  3. How can I clean sports bags interiors?
  4. How can I disinfect flip flops and slide in sandals used in the locker room?
  5. Should I rinse out the washer and use bleach after these sport-related items are cleaned to prevent spreading germs to other items?

A. Thanks for your wide-ranging questions. The answers have a broader application than just for lacrosse. Let’s take them one at a time:

  1. Deodorizing sports equipment — Just like your house, dealing with odors can be done by either covering/masking or chemically-reacting them. The best result is to wash equipment whenever possible to remove as much deposited sweat, dirt and bacteria as possible. These can be machine or even hand-washed using detergent, then make sure it’s rinsed well before air drying. The alternative(s) are to leave the equipment out in the sun to air dry after use or apply a spray-on product. Often equipment is just removed and stuffed in a bag until the next use. I remember the kids’ soccer shin guards would get real ripe after 2–3 weeks. Air drying will reduce the damp, warm, growth environment for odor-causing bacteria. Spraying can be useful in reducing the odors. Whether you use a deodorizing spray like Febreze, or a hard surface sanitizer like our Clorox® Anywhere® Daily Sanitizing Spray, this should help reduce the odors and should be done frequently for best results.
  2. MRSA — Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) has become much more prominent around the locker room in local high schools. Good disinfecting programs in common locker equipment areas and showers are a must. Sharing any equipment should be avoided. Abrasions like turf toe and scraped knees and elbows should be covered/protected and not introduced into potentially infected areas. Some common sense procedures should be encouraged to reduce the risk of contact, including frequent handwashing using hand sanitizers and allowing wet equipment to dry out between uses. Where possible, use of sodium hypochlorite, the active in Clorox® Regular-Bleach1, should be applied to items/surfaces per label disinfecting instruction (3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1/gallon water applied to cleaned surface for 5 minutes before rinsing and drying). Unfortunately, I don’t have a good colored item product to recommend.
  3. Sandals/flip-flops — After being in cleats for an extended time, those slip-ons are a welcome, anticipated treat for athlete’s feet. I never let my kids walk around a locker room or shower without them to avoid the risk of athlete’s foot. So two different concerns here: the shower and the sandals need to be dealt with. For both situations, I would use either Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 applied to dirty items/surfaces or a good soap scum remover for the shower, and a brush and sudsy water for the sandals, per label disinfecting instruction (3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1/gallon water applied to cleaned surface for 5 minutes before rinsing and drying). Clorox® Clean-Up ® + Bleach applied to items/surfaces per label instruction (spray product 4–6 inches from surface until thoroughly wet; wait 30 seconds; before rinsing and drying) will also work well.
  4. Sports Bag Cleaning — Usually these are a mess a couple of weeks after they’re new. They are carried, dropped and stored EVERYWHERE. So the exteriors and handles are probably loaded with who knows what germs, etc. At a minimum, they should be wiped down periodically with Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes and not be deposited on bathroom floors, etc. The interiors usually get the muddy shoes, wet uniforms and equipment along with whatever “snack” was taken along to deal with hunger pains. Again, encourage that these be cleaned out after every practice and game and don’t forget to remove the support in the bottom for more hidden surprises. Wiping out the interior at least weekly with a sudsy rag and Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes would be a good idea. An occasional wash in at least warm water with a detergent and the appropriate bleach (see Bleachability Test above) followed by air drying will also be beneficial. The key here is to keep it clean AND dry to prevent mildew, mold and/or odor-causing bacteria from taking root.
  5. Washing Procedure — Great question. If you’re concerned about having residual germs being transferred from the washing of the sports items, I would either do them last or on a separate day. I would always follow the sports items with a white load that was going to include Clorox® Regular-Bleach1. We call it “Mouthwash for Your Washer.” The liquid bleach will eliminate any leftover “critters” on your clothes or in any remaining water in the bottom of your washer.