How to Wash Wrestling Uniforms and Shoes

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wrestling uniform
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Middle school, high school, and college level Greco-Roman wrestling isn't like professional wrestling with all its glitz and showbiz. There is no entourage to pamper these athletes or a trunk full of costumes. These wrestlers rely on their strength and training alone. Keeping wrestling uniforms or singlets looking great doesn't need to be such a chore. For the serious wrestlers, here are some tips for keeping wrestling uniforms and shoes looking their best.

Know Your Wrestling Uniform Material

Most wrestling singlets are 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 biggest problem is odor control because bacteria molecules can cling to the fabric unless it is washed properly.

Your First Move: Learn the Presoak

Presoaking is essential in getting your uniform clean and odor free. After practice or a match, 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 about two tablespoons of heavy duty laundry detergent (Tide and Persil are considered heavy-duty and contain enough enzymes to cut through oily body soil) and one cup of baking soda to neutralize odor. Allow the uniform to soak for at least one hour. It is even better if it 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 and don't have a water softening system, your 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 your detergent work better.

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

I know there is no crying in wrestling (except on TV), but when there is blood 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 any blood stains. Inspect the uniform before you put it into wash and treat any remaining stains with a stain remover or by rubbing in a bit of extra detergent.

Wash Alone

Wrestling is a one-on-one sport built on individual strength and drive. And just like the athlete that heads to the mat alone, the uniform should also travel alone or with other uniforms through the washing machine. Do not wash the uniform with other laundry, especially towels. Many clothes contain cotton or a cotton blend. The lint will come off and cling to the singlet's fibers. After the uniform has presoaked, fill the washer with cool water and detergent and wash as usual. Never use hot water even if the uniform is white, the lettering or other trim colors may fade.

Ban Chlorine Bleach

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 to whiten and brighten, use an oxygen or all-fabric bleach (OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Bleach, or Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach are brand names) and cool water. Follow the package directions as to how much product per gallon of water. Completely submerge the garment and allow it to soak for at least eight hours. Check the whiteness and stains. If all is looking good, wash as usual. If the fabric still looks dull or there are stains, mix a fresh solution and repeat. It may take several soakings to remove dullness or stains but it should come out looking brighter and whiter. 

If you feel the uniform needs to be disinfected due to bacteria, use pine oil or phenolic (Lysol) disinfectants-no chlorine bleach! Don't forget to wash and disinfect gym bags frequently to prevent cross-contamination.

Forget the Heat

Never put any part of a wrestling uniform in a clothes dryer. High heat causes shrinking, sets in stains, and fades colors. Hang the uniform to air dry away from direct sunlight.

How to Clean Wrestling Shoes

Wrestling shoes are expensive and even though they are supposed to only be worn inside, they can still get dirty. Begin by removing the shoe laces and wash them separately by hand in hot, soapy water. Liquid dish detergent does a great job.

To clean the shoes, you simply need warm water and an old, soft cloth. Dip the cloth in warm water and working on a small area at a time, wipe the shoes with circular motions. Do not scrub vigorously because that can damage the shoe material. Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth and rinse it often. Allow the shoes to air dry away from direct heat or sunlight. Relace when completely dry.

For tough odors and to prevent athlete's foot, use an anti-fungal spray after each wearing. It is also important to allow the shoes to dry in fresh air after each wearing.