How to Take Care of Your Equipment
In case you did not know, your goalie equipment should not smell like a latrine nor should it smell like a pile of garbage rotting in the hot sun. Not only is it disgusting, but it speeds up the breakdown of the equipment as well as open you up to potentially dangerous infections and diseases. It only takes a small amount of effort to ensure your equipment will last a long time, stay clean, and not reek.
How many times after a game you throw your gear in the trunk of your car and leave it there till the next game? I am just as guilty as the rest of you out there. You open your bag and humidity and smell hits you right away. Each piece of equipment is cold and soaking wet, never drying from the previous game. The initial feeling of putting on said equipment is comparable to sticking your arm through warm slime. After a few minutes the grossness factor drops a few levels and once you start sweating you don’t even notice it. This might work a few times but eventually it is going to become quite terrible.
The best thing you can do is air out your equipment after every game. I know you are exhausted and sore, but it takes less than 3 minutes to open your bag, pull out your gear, open each piece up, and lay it out to dry. Depending on what type of climate you live in you might need the use of fans or a portable heater. When I lived in New York it was very difficult to dry out my equipment because of the high humidity. Here in Colorado my equipment dries in a heartbeat.
Personally I lay out my equipment in the garage. I have an area sectioned off where I can open up each piece of equipment and lay it out. Some people use their basement, others put up hooks in a closet or shelves to hold the equipment, a bathroom works for some, and I have heard of people using their attics. As long as you can get your equipment to dry in a reasonable amount of time, you are doing the most crucial part of the process.
When your equipment dries the sweat does not disappear, rather it gets absorbed again and again into your gear. So even if you dry out your stuff after every use, over time the sweat will start to smell and breakdown the materials. Just so you know, throwing laundry sheets and spraying Febreeze all over your equipment only masks the smell and does nothing to remove the bacteria, which is the real cause of the smell and deterioration.
In ice hockey your equipment gets soaking wet from the ice and in both roller and ice hockey your sweat also makes your equipment wet. Some people are afraid to submerge their equipment in water thinking it will fall apart, but just think about the amount of water and sweat you put into your equipment each time you play. I am not suggesting leaving your gear in the bathtub for hours, but there is no harm in washing your stuff.
For my glove and blocker I make up a diluted solution of lysol with water and use a toothbrush to scrub all the areas, especially the deep crevasses that never get exposed fully to the air. Your hands are probably the area where your risk of infection or disease is highest. Your blocker and glove are not able to dry out as well as your pants or chest protector, so there is more bacteria hanging around. As you sweat your skin becomes more porous and your skins ability to defend against germs is weakened. Just look up articles on Ed Belfour who missed several games from an infection on his finger (cut it on a leg pad strap prior to a game) or Mikael Renberg who almost lost his hand to an infection caused by a blister that popped while tying his skates.
I use the bathtub to wash my throat guard, chest protector, and pants. I fill the tub up with a bunch of water and mix in a very mild, fragrance free soap (I use California Baby soap that we use for my son). Throw your gear in and mix it around in the tub, pushing it down to get it submerged. Depending on how dirty your equipment is the water will turn a brownish-grey pretty quickly. After about 10 to 20 minutes drain the tub and rinse down your equipment with clean water. Finally hang it up somewhere to dry fully.
Besides my gear I make sure to wash the headband from my mask and all the clothing I wear under my equipment after each time I play. I can see how some people do not wash their jersey after every game, but you have to wash the clothing that touches your skin.
The best way to get into a habit of taking care of your equipment is to get into a routine. Every time I play I follow the same pattern when I get home. I empty out my bag, open up my equipment, put up a wash with my clothing, grab a cup of chocolate milk, take a shower, and go to sleep. If you are consistent about it eventually it will become second nature for you and you will not even need to think about it.