Keeping the baseball pants and uniforms of the boys and girls of summer looking great doesn’t need to be such a chore. It would be nice if all of the T-ball, softball, and baseball 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 baseball pants and shirts looking their best.
Know the Material of Your Baseball Uniform
Remember the episode on Seinfeld when George Costanza switched the Yankees from their usual stretchy synthetic uniforms to restrictive cotton uniforms? It was a disaster because the cotton shrank and the players couldn’t throw, hit, or run comfortably. That’s why almost every baseball 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.
Polyester fabric should be washed in warm water and either air dried or tumble dried on low heat. Excessively high heat can cause shrinkage of the fabric and set in stains making them difficult to remove.
Cleaning baseball caps is in a different league. Follow specific cleaning techniques for daily wear and collectible baseball caps.
Do Some Prep Work Before the Big Game
Just as players train before the game, you can train baseball pants to ward off troublesome stains. The red mud that is so hard to remove from the fabric is a tiny particulate that embeds itself in the fibers. So, prepare the fibers to keep the red mud out.
Before the game, fill a sink or tub with warm water and add two tablespoons of fabric softener and mix well. Add the pants and allow them to soak for ten minutes. Remove from the solution (don't rinse) and hang to dry.
The fabric softener will coat the fabric fibers making them "slicker" and more resistant to the red mud particulates. They'll still get dirty but the mud will "slide out" easier in the wash.
This preparation must be repeated before every game for best results or by adding fabric softener to the final rinse each time the pants are washed.
Presoak to Remove Stains From Baseball Pants
Presoaking is essential in getting a baseball uniform, especially the pants, clean. After the game and that celebration of hot dogs and watermelon slices, rinse off the uniform with cool water in a utility sink to remove as much loose dirt and mud as possible. If you don’t have a large sink, hang the uniform over a clothesline and spray it down with a hose.
Next, fill the sink or a bucket with warm water. Add one-fourth cup heavy-duty laundry detergent that contains the enzymes and surfactants needed to lift away stains (Tide or Persil are leading brands) and one cup of baking soda to help with odor; then soak the uniform for at least one hour. It is even better if it can soak overnight. Obviously, if you are the team Mom or Dad and have more than one uniform, increase the amount of water, detergent, and baking soda accordingly.
If you have hard water, the uniform will be harder to clean and you will need to add some water conditioner to your presoak bucket. This is not fabric softener; water conditioner is an additive that helps detergent work better.
No Steroids or Chlorine Bleach in Baseball
Chlorine bleach has many appropriate uses, just like steroids, but not in baseball. It may be tempting to use chlorine bleach on white or even gray uniforms to whiten and brighten but it is not effective for polyester fabrics and can even damage the material. Chlorine bleach strips away the outer coating on the man-made polyester threads and exposes the inner yellow core.
Instead, use oxygen or all-fabric bleach (brand names are: OxiClean, Nellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite) to brighten and whiten. Mix a solution of oxygen bleach and warm water following package directions creating enough solution to completely submerge the uniform. Again, allow the uniform to soak for at least four hours to get the best results, overnight is better, and then wash as usual.
Blood, Sweat, and Grass Stains
Skip the hot water for any blood stains and use cold water instead. Hot water will only set the stains and make them nearly impossible to remove.
While the presoaking technique will usually take care of most stains; inspect the uniform before you put it into the washer and treat any remaining stains with a stain remover or by rubbing in an extra bit of heavy-duty detergent. If there are tough red mud stains, add a scoop of oxygen bleach or borax to the laundry load to boost cleaning power. These products are safe to use in HE washers.
Wash Baseball Uniforms Alone
Baseball may be a team sport but the uniform should travel alone or with similar fabrics through the washing machine. Do not wash the uniform with other clothes. Many clothes contain cotton or are a cotton blend. The lint will come off and cling to the jersey’s letters and numbers. After the uniform has presoaked, fill the washer with cool water and detergent and set the dial to the permanent press cycle. Never use hot water. Even if the uniform is white, the lettering and numbers are colored and can fade.
Forget the Heat of a Dryer
Never put a sports uniform in a hot clothes dryer. High heat causes shrinking, sets in stains, and fades colors. Hang the uniform to air dry away from direct sunlight. If you must dry a uniform quickly, tumble on low heat and remove while still slightly damp.