How to Wash Cheer Uniforms

Remove grass and mud stains, and more

Blue and white cheerleading uniform next to laundry detergent bottle and baking soda glass containers

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

As skilled and talented athletes, cheerleaders regularly perform aerobatic and strenuous routines. Their uniforms are made of materials that can stand up to this regular use. While this high-performance material is built to last, it does make laundering cheerleading uniforms correctly even more important.

Follow these tips to learn how to launder cheer uniform pieces after every performance to remove stains and get them smelling their best.

Know Your Uniform Material

Most cheer uniform pieces are made from heavyweight, stretchable polyester knit. The fabric is durable, has stretch for ease of movement, and, is actually easier to care for than cotton because no ironing is required. However, excessively hot water and high dryer temperatures can ruin the fabric while oily stains on synthetics can be more difficult to remove.

To protect muscles and joints from injury, many members of a cheer team may wear compression garments. Again, read the label to launder them correctly.

Presoak Uniforms

Presoaking to remove stains and odor is essential in getting your uniform clean. After the game or pep rally, rinse off the uniform in a utility sink to remove as much loose dirt and body soil as possible.

Next, fill a large sink or bucket with warm (not hot) water. Add a tablespoon of heavy-duty laundry detergent (Tide and Persil are highly rated and considered heavy-duty) and one cup of baking soda to neutralize odor; then allow the uniform to soak for at least one hour. If it is heavily soiled with dirt or grass stains, it is even better if the uniform can soak overnight.

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 conditioner or softener to your presoak bucket. This is not a fabric softener; it is an additive that helps your detergent work better.

Wooden spoon of baking soda poured into sink with water

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Don't Use Chlorine Bleach (Ever)

It may be tempting to reach for chlorine bleach to whiten or remove stains on white or even gray uniforms; but, it is not effective for polyester fabrics and can even damage the material.

Instead, soak the stained or dingy uniform overnight in a solution of cool water and oxygen-based bleach (brand names include OxiClean, Nellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite). Fill a deep sink or plastic tub with cool water and add the amount of oxygen bleach suggested on the package. Completely submerge all pieces of the uniform in the solution. This cleaning solution is safe to use on all washable fabrics both white and colored.

Remove Stains

After the uniform has presoaked, check it over for any remaining stains, such as after-game pizzaCold water is the trick for almost all stains that come a cheerleader's way on synthetic uniforms. Hot water should be used sparingly for grease or oily stains. The presoaking techniques will usually take care of most stains. 

Wash Alone

Cheerleading may be a team sport but the uniform should be laundered alone, or with similar fabrics. Do not wash the uniform with the regular household laundry. Most clothes contain cotton or a cotton blend; the lint will come off and cling to the uniform's letters and decals.

Fill the washer with cool water and detergent and wash as usual. Never use hot water because that can cause colors to bleed onto each other.​

Blue and white cheerleading uniform top placed in washing machine alone

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Hang to Dry

Never put a sports uniform in the clothes dryer. High heat causes shrinking, sets in stains, and fades colors. Hang the uniform to air dry away from direct sunlight. If you are in a rush and must use a dryer, choose the air only cycle and allow the uniform to tumble for about 10 minutes.

There is usually no need to iron a cheer uniform. But, if you are faced with a wrinkled mess from spending time in a heap, choose a low temperature, iron on the wrong side of the fabric, and use a pressing cloth between the face of the iron and the uniform.

Blue and white cheerleading uniform hanging on drying rack to air dry

The Spruce / Sarah Lee