How to Wash a Basketball Jersey and Uniform

Blue basketball jersey next to laundry detergent, clothespins and basket of basketball shorts

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Keeping a basketball uniform or jersey looking great doesn't need to be a stretch. It would be nice if all basketball players were like Steph or LeBron and had managers who whisked away the dirty uniforms after a game and a nice, clean one magically appeared on practice and game days. But since that is reserved for the chosen few, here are some tips for keeping your up and coming player's basketball practice gear, uniforms, and team jerseys looking their best.

Study the Play Book

Just like a player needs to study and know the plays, you need to study the care label to know what kind of material was used to make the jersey. Most basketball uniforms are made from heavy weight stretchable polyester knit or mesh commonly found in today's activewear. The fabric is durable, has stretch for ease of movement and is actually easier to care for than cotton. Your player may also wear a compression garment during practice or games to protect muscles and tendons.

Both of these fabrics take a bit of extra attention to help them maintain their stretch, remove strong odors, and keep colors bright.

The Presoak Routine

Presoaking is essential in getting uniforms and practice gear clean and odor free. After practice or a game, 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 two tablespoons of heavy-duty laundry detergent (Tide and Persil are considered heavy-duty because of the number of enzymes they contain to break down soil and body oil so it can be flushed away) and at least 1/2 cup of baking soda to neutralize odor. Allow the practice clothes or uniform to soak for at least one hour. It is even better if they 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, the clothes will be harder to clean and you will need to add some water conditioner to your presoak bucket. This is not fabric softener; it is an additive that helps your detergent work better.

Blue basketball jersey soaked in plastic bin with laundry detergent

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

No Chlorine Bleach

It may be tempting to use chlorine bleach on white or even gray uniforms to get rid of stains and whiten whites but it is not effective for polyester fabrics and can even damage the material. Every white uniform has dark colored numbers and letters! Instead, use oxygen or all-fabric bleach (OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Oxygen Bleach or Seventh Generation Oxygen Bleach are brand names) and cool water to brighten and whiten. Again, allow the uniform to soak for at least one hour—overnight is better—to get the best results.

How to Treat Blood Stains

When there are blood stains, 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. Inspect the uniform before you put it into the wash and treat any remaining stains with an enzyme-based stain remover like Shout or Zout or by rubbing in a bit of extra detergent using a soft-bristled brush.

Blue basketball jersey scrubbed with old toothbrush and laundry detergent to treat blood stains

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Wash Each Uniform Alone

Basketball may be a team sport but the uniform should travel alone or with other uniforms through the washing machine. Do not wash a basketball jersey or uniform with other clothes especially towels, underwear, and socks. Most of these items are made of 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 detergent and launder as usual. Never use hot water. Even if the uniform is white, the trim, lettering, and numbers are colored and can fade.

To disinfect towels and socks that may have been exposed to bacteria and fungus that can cause problems like Athlete's Foot, add a disinfectant to the load when washing to get these thoroughly clean. Be sure to disinfect laundry and gym bags, too.

Forget the Heat

Never put a sports jersey or uniform in an automatic tumble dryer. High heat causes shrinking, sets in stains, and can destroy screen-printed numbers and letters. Instead, hang the uniform to air dry on a clothesline or on an inside folding dryer rack away from direct sunlight.

If excessive heat has caused peeling of applied numbers and letters, there are some things you can do to improve the situation and restore the printing

Blue basketball jersey and shorts handing on drying rack

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo