Think about it: You wash your cycling kit after a ride. You even throw your cycling gloves in the laundry when they get gross. So why aren’t you cleaning the cycling helmet that touches your face and hair every time you ride? Your helmet gets just as nasty as your kit and deserves a good washing as well.
A second, and more important, reason for cleaning a helmet regularly: To give it a thorough safety check. Look for dents or cracks in the hard foam — the stuff that actually protects you in a crash — and look for tears or rips in the straps that secure the helmet to your head. If you spot any, congrats, you discovered that you need to replace the helmet before you risk relying on that old, damaged helmet to protect you in a crash.
Cleaning a Helmet
- Fill a bucket or kitchen sink with warm, soapy water — dish soap works well.
- Remove the helmet’s inner foam pads, such as the Integrated Airframe pads in Rudy Project helmets. These should be held in place using Velcro and be easy to remove. Submerge them into the soapy water for a minute or so, then rinse them thoroughly in cold water. Squeeze the excess water out and set them out to air dry. These foam pads absorb most of the stink in a helmet, and if they’re still pungent, dunk them in a 1:10 white vinegar:water solution for a couple of minutes. Rinse them out and let them air dry. The vinegar should kill off any smelly bacteria.
- Use a clean sponge or towel to wipe the entire helmet inside and out with soapy water. If you have a mountain bike helmet with a removable visor, take it off and wash it separately. For hard-to-reach spots, gently use a soft toothbrush to remove mud and grit.
- Soak your helmet straps thoroughly in soapy water and use your fingers to massage the soap into the straps and the dirt out. If necessary, use a soft toothbrush to scrub out the grit. At Rudy Project, we make this step easy with the Strap Quick Change system on our Protera MTB helmets. This popular feature lets you remove the straps with one click.
- Rinse the helmet and straps thoroughly with cold water, then wipe off any excess moisture with a dry towel. Set the helmet out to dry, either in the shade outside or in a dry spot inside.
How NOT To Clean a Bike Helmet
- Do NOT use solvents or petroleum-based cleaners. These will damage and degrade the plastic and foam protection at the core of a bike helmet. This warning also applies to using DEET bug spray. Resist the urge to spray it over your head and helmet.
- Do NOT put your helmet in the dishwasher or submerge it in soapy water for an extended period of time. Dishwashers run too hot, and extended submersion could weaken the helmet’s hard foam core.
- Do NOT take a brush to the hard, plastic outer shell, as you risk scratching its surface.
- Do NOT dry your helmet in direct sunlight since the UV rays will slowly degrade the plastic. Excessive heat can damage the plastic as well, so be careful not to leave your helmet in a hot car.
Take Care of What Takes Care of You
It’s no secret that a high-quality helmet maximizes your performance and protection. Whether you’re training or racing, it’s a critical part of your kit. As such, proper cleaning and care will always be worth the effort. Maintaining your helmet’s optimal condition will help it do what it does best — keep you safe on your ride.