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AFM Magazine

Safety First: Keeping Equipment Clean - In-Season

by: Kristin Beer
Assistant Football Manager - UCLA Football
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Football season is long and hard on equipment. It is the equipment managersí job to maintain that equipment so that it can last all season. This includes repairing and cleaning the equipment on a regular basis. The number one goal of cleaning football equipment is killing the microbes that pose the biggest threat to athletes including MRSA, Staph, Meningitis, Strep, Athletes foot, HIV, Herpes, Hepatitis, mold and mildew. These microbes can keep a player out of play for days, weeks, months, years, or possibly endanger their life. Proper cleaning techniques can keep these microbes at bay and keep your athletes healthy.

Cleaning helmets should be a weekly habit. Quick cleaning can be as simple as rinsing the whole helmet in the shower or sink in warm water and allow to dry. This helps with removal of normal grime.

A more in-depth helmet cleaning consists of using a hypoallergenic germicidal cleaner, spraying the inside padding of the helmet, and completely wiping it out, making sure to get into all the cracks and crevices of the helmet. A good germicidal cleaner can be found at many stores. Make sure to wipe the entire cleaner out to ensure that no residues are left behind. Some helmets have removable and washable liners inside. Make sure to pull those out and wash in your normal washer and dryer to clean.

This is also the time to be checking the padding inside the helmet and the exterior facemask and hardware for any worn or damaged parts and replace as needed. Most helmet companies also offer kits that are used to clean and disinfect interiors of helmets as well as the exterior. Itís always best to check with the manufacturersí guidelines on cleaning and make sure that products you are using do not void out the warranty on the helmet. At the end of the season, it is best to send your helmets out to be reconditioned, to get recertified and to receive a good thorough cleaning.
 Shoulder Pads and Other Protective Padding
Cleaning shoulder pads is about cleaning the exterior, not the interior. Improper knowledge of the type of padding that is in the shoulder pads your team uses can result in the padding breaking down due to improper care. For example, if you have pads that have open celled foam, you do not want to submerge the pad in soapy water. The soap fills in the cavities and stays inside the pad, which will break down the pad over time at a quicker rate. The main focus is the surface.

Spraying the outside of the pad with a hypoallergenic germicidal spray is the easiest and best way to keep shoulder pads clean and disinfected. There are other odor eliminator and disinfecting sprays available for sporting equipment. Research is needed to ensure the right spray is used for your specific situation and needs. The ultimate goal is to disinfect the pad and have it smell good. After the season, it is recommended to have your shoulder pads cleaned and/or reconditioned.

Extremity pads such as thigh pads, hip pads, tailbone pads, and knee pads with plastic coverings simply need to be cleaned with a sponge and soapy water or a germicidal cleaner. Do not submerge as water can get in the plastic covering, cause mold, and rot out the interior padding.
Fungi can have a huge effect on athletes just as any other virus or bacteria. Fungi grows in dark wet areas where there is not adequate airflow, such as the interior of a cleat or shoe or the bottom of the shoe bin. First thing to do is to dry out the interior after a game or practice. There are dryers specifically made for shoes that can be purchased to aid in drying out the interior. Other options are to use a fan or to simply allow the cleats to dry sitting out to allow air flow. Another option for very wet cleats is to stuff paper towels into the toes of the cleat to help with water absorption. Once the shoe is dry, spraying the interior of the cleat with an antifungal spray will help keep them dry and disinfected. Using anti-mold mats in the shoe bin of the locker or other odor absorbing liners can also help with keeping fungi and mold from building up on footwear.
Dos and Doníts
Do understand your needs, what you are trying to clean, what you are trying to kill, and your budget. When you know what you are looking for in a cleaner, you can better direct your questions to find the right product.
Do your research and ask questions. When looking for the best product that fits your needs, make sure you understand everything you can about the product, what you use it for, how you use it, and the cost. Talk with dealers and representatives of the product and ask questions to make sure that you make an informed decision.
Donít focus on the brand of the product. The product that you purchase and use should be what works best for your situation and not what other programs are using or what the ďbestĒ selling products may be.
Do check with equipment manufacturers and sellers for guidelines on cleaning and maintaining the equipment. Make sure that the products that you decide to use donít void the warranty on the equipment or damage the equipment.
Do make sure that the products you use to clean equipment that is in direct contact with athletes are hypoallergenic products to reduce/eliminate allergic reactions.
Donít use caustic or known skin irritant products on equipment. This is a safety hazard for both the equipment manager who is using the cleaner and the player who touches and sweats on it.
Do keep up on a regular cleaning regimen on your equipment. Keeping yourself on a cleaning schedule will ensure that your equipment will be properly cleaned when it needs to be cleaned.
Donít rush through your cleaning. Allow plenty of time to clean and dry the equipment properly. If needed, clean again. Cleaner is safer.


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