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How to clean your helmet pads

Freshen up your helmet lining without causing damage

Most of us are, hopefully, familiar with how to keep a frame, drivetrain and our riding kit clean. But what about our helmets? How often do you clean your helmet pads? It wasn’t something I’d thought about much, to be honest, until a series of recent rides made the question unavoidable.

I’m used to gloves, jerseys and other pads developing an odor. But the smell wafting down from my hairline was new, unwelcoming, and approaching distracting levels of stench.

So, it was time to clean the pads. But, with all the new high-tech anti-brain injury systems in helmets, is it as easy as just chucking the pads in with the laundry? The POC Tectal SPIN that has become a favourite helmet lately, for instance, has gel-filled padding to help prevent concussions instead of a slip-lining.

Ew. POC’s SPIN pads were still comfortable but definitely needed a wash after a long summer and fall of riding.

How to clean helmet pads

There are two options for cleaning helmet pads. Machine washing, or handwashing. For either one, most brands recommend using a cold-water wash, not hot. This helps prevent the edges of the pads from fraying or splitting.

In the case of the POC Spin pads, I opted for hand washing. This is as simple as using a bit of soap (I used dish soap, it doesn’t have to be fancy) and gently washing them in a kitchen sink. Do remember to fully rinse the soap out of the pads before drying them, or you’ll get a bubbly surprise on your first sweaty or rainy ride.

For less technical pads, machine washing is just fine. I put them in a mesh bag, like I would with knee pads that have any velcro straps, and throw them in with other jerseys and kit. The bag lets the pads get clean while keeping them safe from damage from zippers, or any crevasses or edges in the washing machine. It also makes them much easier to find after if they’re not mixed in and amongst all your other clothes.

Much better. Not perfect, but this helmet’s seen a ton of miles over the last year.

Dry the pads out, on low heat or hang dry. While they’re drying, you can clean any dirt out of the interior of the helmet with a clean cloth or brush. Then put the pads back in and you are ready to go!