How to Clean and Care for a Team Jersey

Team jerseys air drying next to cleaning materials and laundry basket

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Every true sports fan has a jersey or two for their favorite team. Whether you wear them to cheer from the couch or in the stands as the game goes on, these jerseys are expensive, and you want them to last a long time. Learn how to keep sports jerseys looking great and make repairs if the letters or numbers begin to peel away.

How Often to Clean a Team Jersey

Spectators can wash a jersey once a season to keep it in good shape, unless there are spills that need to be cleaned. Athletes should wash their jerseys after each wearing to remove dirt and odors.

Most jerseys are made from polyester or another synthetic fabric. These fabrics are easy to wash and dry, but jerseys have the addition of letters and numbers that must be treated with care. Your team may be tough, but washing your jersey requires a more gentle touch. Take a minute to read the care label. If it says to use cold water, do so. If it says not to put it in the dryer, comply—or you'll be sorry.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Jersey

  • Washer
  • Clothesline or drying rack
  • Soft-bristled brush (optional)

Numbers and Lettering

  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Sewing machine

Materials

Jersey

  • Laundry detergent
  • Water
  • Stain remover (optional)

Numbers and Lettering

  • White copy paper or notebook paper
  • Acetone-based nail polish remover
  • Cotton swab
  • Matching jersey fabric (optional)
  • New fabric letters or numbers (optional)
  • Matching thread(s) (optional)

Instructions

Clothesline next to soft bristled brush and laundry detergent on white surface

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Wash a Team Jersey
Detergent Regular
Water Temperature Cold or warm
Cycle Type Permanent press or delicate
Drying Cycle Type Do not machine-dry; air-dry only
Special Treatments Wash inside out
Iron Settings Do not iron
  1. Pretreat Stains

    Pretreat stains like mustard, ketchup, beer, mud, and grass before putting the jersey in the washer. Use an enzyme-based stain remover or a dab of heavy-duty laundry detergent on the stains. Rub in the stain remover or detergent with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush, and allow it to work for at least 15 minutes before washing.

    Heavy duty laundry detergent scrubbed into stained team jersey

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Load the Washer

    Turn every jersey inside out before adding it to the washer. This will protect the numbers and lettering from abrasion and agitation and will make them last longer.

    Team jerseys turned inside out on laundry basket for washing

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Select the Washer Cycle and Water Temperature

    Select the permanent press or gentle washer cycle to help prevent excessive wrinkling and wear on the letters and numbers. Set the water temperature to cold or warm. Hot water can cause fading, shrinking, and letter damage.

    Washer machine set for gentle cycle jersey on top

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Dry the Jersey

    After removing it from the washer, turn the jersey right side out, and give it a shake. This will prevent the decals from sticking together. Don't wring the jersey, or it could ruin the shirt's shape and lettering. For best results, don't put a sports jersey in the dryer. The high heat is too much for the jersey, and you may end up with cracked letters or letters stuck together. Dry a jersey flat on a drying rack, or hang to air-dry.

    Team jerseys hanging on drying rack

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  5. Avoid an Ironing Disaster

    Don't iron a jersey because the high temperature can burn holes or melt letters and logos. If you absolutely must iron a jersey, use a pressing cloth and your iron's lowest temperature.

    Team jersey ironed with pressing cloth in between

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Repair Peeling Letters and Numbers

You've done your best to maintain your jersey, but now the letters or numbers on the shirt are curling up and peeling away. Or, maybe the printer misspelled a player's name. Here's what to do.

  1. Repair Letters and Numbers

    Place a freshly washed jersey on an ironing board with the peeling decal facing up. Set the iron on high without steam. Position or smooth the decal back to the way it should be. Cover the curled section with a sheet of white notebook or copy paper.

    Use just the tip of the iron, never the entire surface, over the white paper. Press only the edge of the curling decal. Begin slowly, with a very short pressing time. Just tap the edge of the iron and the edge of the paper-covered decal for a few seconds. Gradually increase the time until you see the decal sticking again to the fabric. Never allow the iron to directly touch the jersey or the decals. Leave the jersey flat on the ironing board until the area is completely cool.

    Work on only one problem at a time. When the corrected section is cool, move to another area.

    Repairing lettering of team jersey with iron and decal paper

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Separating Melted Lettering

    If the jersey was accidentally put in the dryer on high heat and the letters have melted together, they can be separated to save the jersey. But, no matter how careful you are, the letters are never going to look the same as before. However, this technique will allow you to wear the jersey again without a big hole.

    Allow the jersey to cool completely. Dip a cotton swab in an acetone-based fingernail polish remover, and slowly swab the stuck areas while very gently pulling the letters apart. There will be some damage to the letters no matter how gentle you are in the process.

    Separating melted lettering from team jersey with fingernail polish remover

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Restoring Cracked Lettering

    If the numbers and lettering have cracked or faded, it's nearly impossible to restore them to their original glory. Some sites recommend using fabric paint to repaint the lettering; you can purchase fabric paint at a craft store or online. However, the repair will never look like the original and may appear uneven. Another option is to wear the cracked lettering proudly to signify your years of support for the team.

    Restoring cracked lettering on team jersey with fabric paint

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Correcting Misspelled Lettering

    Printers make mistakes, and sometimes a name is misspelled or a number needs to be changed. It's usually impossible to remove the letters without damaging the fabric. Instead, buy some matching jersey fabric, and attach the new numbers or lettering (iron-on or stitched) to the fabric. Then hand- or machine-sew the square or rectangle onto the jersey. It won't look perfect, but it can get a kid through the season. Plus, it's less expensive than buying a new jersey.

    Misspelled lettering on team jersey fixed by hand sewing matching fabric

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Storing a Team Jersey

Team jerseys should be washed before storage to avoid difficult-to-remove stains for the next season. They can be folded or hung but should always be kept in a temperature-controlled environment to prevent damage to the lettering.

Treating Stains on a Team Jersey

A team jersey used for practices and games will need attention after just about every wearing. Since it's best for a team jersey to be washed on a more gentle cycle in the washing machine, you may have to work on the stains by hand for best results.

Sweat

Eliminate sweat stains and perspiration odor on a team jersey by adding 1 cup white vinegar to your wash. If the odor is still lingering, wash again, but this time add 1/2 cup baking soda to the load.

Grass

Remove stubborn grass stains by mixing one part vinegar to two parts water. Dip a toothbrush or soft-bristled brush into the liquid. Gently brush the mixture onto the stain. Let it absorb for one to two hours. Then, toss the garment into the regular wash.

Blood

Remove blood from a jersey by running cold water over the shirt. Continually rub your fingers on the stain under the water to loosen it from the fibers. If needed, add a drop of shampoo or dish soap to the stain while you rub it in with your fingers under cold water. Rinse, and repeat if necessary. Then, toss the garment into the regular wash.

Tip

  • Don't use fabric softeners on team jerseys because the chemicals can coat the fabric and damage the way it wicks moisture away from your body.
  • For extra protection, wash your jersey in a mesh garment bag. That way the hooks, zippers, and Velcro from other items won't snag on the jersey.
  • If you need your jersey to dry quickly, grab your blow-dryer, set it to cool, and point it at the garment to dry.