Saturday, December 24, 2011

What's that smell? Oh wait, it's me.

We've all done it, come home from a brutal practice, and left our sweaty gear in our bags, possibly in the car.  "I'll air my gear tomorrow when I have more time" is usually what most of us are thinking; then it turns into "I'll air my gear when I get home from work."  Eventually, we have procrastinated so much that we end up not opening our gear bags until we go to practice again.  Surprise!  Now our gear reeks and possibly is still wet!  Yea!  Doesn't that sound appealing and healthy?

Yes, you.  You stink.

Well, it's actually really bad for you to skate in wet gear, and your teammates don't love smelling your reek either.  We all understand that there is always going to be a certain level of derby pad stink when we're playing, but sometimes stink crosses the line to awful stench, and that's not healthy for anyone.  Our league has a Stinky Pad award we give out at the end of the year, but in all seriousness, it's not an ideal situation for us to be skating around in wet, stinking gear.

First of all, wet gear is a breeding ground for mold and fungal infections; putting wet gear on your skin every other day is most likely going to cause irritation or a possible infection, such as ring worm, impetigo,  or even MRSA.  Gross.  The BEST thing you can do to keep your pads from getting disgusting is dry them out when you get home from practice.  I actually have a drying rack that is specifically set up and used for drying derby gear.  Opening all of the velcro and hanging each pad so it's as open to airflow as possible is the best way you can dry your gear.  Some people dry their gear in the sun, but this can age the elastic parts of your pads, so I wouldn't recommend it on a regular basis.  By the way, when was the last time you really opened your bag and let it air out?  Yeah, you might want to do that too.  Bags can harbor the same reeks that lurk in your pads.

What if you're playing in a tournament situation and can't dry your pads overnight?  Well,  I learned from the Texas Rollergirls that wearing something on your arms to block direct contact with your wet pads can make your situation more comfortable.  I tend to take a long sock and cut the foot off and wear them like gauntlets.  That way my wet pads don't rub on my skin; also, if I wear the gauntlets the first time, they're the ones that tend to get wet, and my pads stay dryer.  Win win! gauntlets!

Ok, you dried your gear every time you've used it, but it still reeks; some people have strong body odor, and that can change with what you eat and drink on a daily basis. Your final option is washing your pads; I realize that washing gear can be trying on people.  Velcro opens and catches in the washing machine, and washing your gear can start to degrade the elastic parts as well, but sometimes it's a necessary evil.  I try to minimize my washing of pads to once a month, and then I use warm wash, gentle cycle and Tide Sports Brand detergent.  It tends to cut through the residual derby stink that remains in pads, even after a good washing.  According to some hockey moms who blog incessantly on this subject, Gear Wash works really well at removing odors and creepy crawlies.  I have sensitive skin in general, so I try to stay away from detergents that I haven't used in the past, but it might work for you.

Aurora Thunder has a great home made detergent that's she's willing to share with us.
Homemade Laundry Detergent (Super easy!)
Most ingredients can be found in the laundry aisle of any chain store.

2 C of fels naptha, zote, or other bar soap

1 C of Borax
1 C of Washing Soda (not baking soda)

You can also add a few drops of essential oils if you like. Tea Tree Oil is recommended for its antibacterial properties.

Grate the bar soap and mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight plastic container. Use 2-3 teaspoons for a full load of laundry (I use the full 3 tsps for derby pads). This is a low sudsing formula so it's safe for front loading and HE machines.

On the sensitive skin note, I am not a fan of constantly spraying gear with Febreeze and other sprays; I do worry that my skin will have a reaction one of these days, so I avoid it as much as possible.  To help deodorize my gear on a day to day basis, I throw a dryer sheet in the bottom of my bag or use "sneaker deodorizer balls" in my skate bag.  (Thanks to Percy Q-tion for the tip!)  Neither of these items comes into direct contact with the interior of my pads, but it does cut the smell back a bit.  I haven't won that Stinky Pad award yet, and I hope I can keep avoiding it by maintaining my gear.
Stinky Pads award...not it!

If you have any suggestions for staying cleaner in your gear, please share!  Make derby a less stinky place for all of us!


  1. I also use those silica gel packets that come with shoes or hand bags. Any time I get those instead of throwing them out I throw them in my skatebag. They're not very big and don't last long, but they're free and I figure if one will dry my gear out for a day or two it can't hurt.

  2. My elbow pads will stay wet inside; there's no easy way to really air them out save turning them inside out. I modified an idea I read somewhere that really helps: I got a small bag of crystal cat litter (which is just silica) and poured it into two old tube socks. When I get back from practice, I lay it all out to dry, and stick the tube socks in the elbow pads. That's made a big difference. They are usually dry the next morning, as opposed to still wet two days later.

  3. When I machine wash my gear, I close up all the straps and put all in one of those very large mesh bags found in the laundry section of Target, etc. Arrange evenly around the agitator and wash on slow with mild detergent and Oxy-clean. Reopen all the straps to hang to dry. They seem to stay in pretty good shape.

  4. I am totally not spamming you I promise but..... I make a product just for Derby Girls to help with sweat and odor on your pads. Simply put, its a fancier spin on Sereta's comment. I make scented silica filled pouches called Funk Blockers that you place inside your pads between practices. They help to absorb the sweat and odor- and they are rechargeable and reusable too!

    Check them out at

  5. I try to air my pads out the moment I come home from practice. And I also use the cut-off socks to wear under my elbowpads and handguards (I acurally used cotton stockings and cut a hole for my thumb to fit through, so I only have one long tube covering everything.) These go into the wash a lot, as they get smelly really fast, but as they soak up most of the sweat, my pads stay fresh longer.

    To wash my pads, I either take them into the showertub with me and let them soak for a while, adding washing detergent when I'm done. If putting them in the washing machine, I put them all in a big cotton shopping bag, as my laundry mesh bags rip doe to the velcro. I also use the gentle cycle and reduce the spinning speed.

  6. At my house, we wash things by hand a lot. There has been much time spent without washer and/or dryer. So I typically wash my pads in a bucket with some Woolite (or rather, Family Dollar brand Wool Wash).

    In the in-betweens, when I remember, I set my pads outside and sometimes sprinkle a little baking soda on them to absorb the wetness and stank.

    I've also heard some vinegar in the wash helps (it also keeps your blacks dark longer) and there's some super duty detergent that hunters use to get dead animal out of their clothes that I've heard skaters swear by.

  7. I've washed my pads on the top rack of my dishwasher (without other dishes) and used those dishwashing detergent power pack things. It works awesome! No velcro sticking to stuff, and I think the elastic doesn't get as beat up as the washer/dryer.

  8. Have you painted your gear? Or is it really gold?

    1. It's an award we give out in our it's been spray painted.

  9. I agree everyone should keep there gear clean:) But you cannot get ringworm from stinky moldy pads unless the actual ringworm yeast or mold is already in your pads! Someone would have had to wear them that had ringworm previously you can also get it from animals or soil that is infected!