Keeping football uniforms and gear clean and odor free and looking like a winner doesn’t need to be such a chore. It would be nice if all of the Pee-Wee and Pop Warner leagues had managers who whisked away the dirty uniforms and a nice, clean one magically appeared on game day. But since that is reserved for the chosen few, here are some tips for keeping football uniforms and gear looking its best and, hopefully, lasting all season.
1. Know Your Uniform Material
Almost every football uniform is made from heavy weight stretchable polyester knit or mesh. The fabric is durable, has stretch for ease of movement and is actually easier to care for than cotton. The key to success is using the right water temperature, detergent and stain removal processes.
2. Learn the Presoak Play
Presoaking is essential in getting the uniform clean. After the game or each practice, rinse off the uniform in a utility sink with cold water to remove as much loose dirt and mud as possible. If you don’t have a utility sink, hang the uniform over a clothesline and spray it down with a hose.
Next fill a large sink, bucket or large plastic storage tub with warm – not hot – water. Add a capful of heavy duty laundry detergent (Tide or Persil are leading brands with plenty of stain-busting enzymes) and one cup of baking soda. Allow the uniform to soak for at least one hour.
It is even better if it can soak overnight. The detergent starts working on stains and the baking soda will help remove the odors. This process is safe for both colored and white fabrics. It is best to separate the colors and whites into separate soaking tubs.
It is important to know if the water in your area is hard or soft.
Hard water contains an excess of minerals that make detergents much less effective in removing soil. If you have hard water, your uniform will be harder to clean and you will need to add some water softener to your presoak solution. This is not fabric softener; it is an additive that helps your detergent work better.
3. No Steroids and No Chlorine Bleach
Chlorine bleach has many appropriate uses, just like steroids, but not in cleaning football uniforms. It may be tempting to use chlorine bleach on white or even gray uniforms but it is not effective for polyester fabrics and can even damage the material.
Instead, use an oxygen or all-fabric bleach to brighten and whiten uniforms and undergarments. Again, allow the uniform to soak for at least one hour but overnight is best to get the best results. The oxygen bleach is safe to use on white uniform shirts or pants with colored stripes or lettering.
4. Play as a Team but Wash Alone
Football may be a team sport but the uniform components should travel alone through the washing machine. Do not wash the uniform with other clothes. Most clothes contain cotton or a cotton blend. The lint will come off and cling to the jersey’s letters and numbers.
After the uniform has pre-soaked, fill the washer with cool water and heavy duty detergent and launder as usual. Never use hot water. Even if the uniform is white, the lettering and numbers are colored and may fade.
5. Leave the Heat on the Field
Never put a sports uniform in the dryer. High heat causes shrinking, can destroy screen-printed lettering and numbers, sets in stains and fades colors. Hang the uniform to air dry away from direct sunlight. If damage has occurred to lettering and it is cracking and peeling, there are ways you can make repairs.
6. Blood, Sweat and Grass Stains
Stains are going to happen. A clean uniform either means someone rode the bench or the game was really boring. When it comes to stain removal for football uniforms, use cold water. Hot water will only set the stains and make them nearly impossible to remove.
The pre-soaking techniques will usually take care of stains. But, inspect the uniform before you put it into wash and treat any remaining stains with a pre-treater or by rubbing in a bit of extra detergent. For specific stains, follow these tips: