Keeping hockey uniforms looking great doesn't need to be such a chore. It would be nice if all players 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 hockey uniforms looking their best.
Know Your Hockey Uniform Material
Most hockey uniforms are made from heavy weight stretchable synthetic knit or mesh. The fabric is durable, has stretch for ease of movement, the ability to wick perspiration away from the body, and is actually easier to care for than cotton. While the jerseys and pants are rugged enough to last throughout the game, you must treat them with the appropriate care to prevent shrinking.
Learn the Presoak Game Plan
Presoaking is essential in getting your uniform clean. After the game, rinse off the uniform with cold water in a utility sink to remove as much loose dirt, blood, and body soil as possible.
Next fill a large sink or bucket with warm-not hot-water. Add a capful of heavy duty laundry detergent and one cup of baking soda to neutralize odor; then soak the uniform 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, 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; it is an additive that helps your detergent work better.
No Chlorine Bleach, Ever
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. White polyester fibers have an inner core that is yellow. The chlorine bleach reacts with the fiber and strips away the outer layer making the fabric permanently yellowed and dull.
Instead, mix a solution of oxygen-based 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 uniform and allow it to soak for at least eight hours. Check the stains and color. If the stains are gone and the color looks whiter and brighter, wash as usual. If the problem remains, mix a fresh solution and repeat. It may take several soakings to remove the stains and restore whiteness but it should happen.
Play as a Team, Wash Alone
Hockey may be a team sport but the uniform should travel alone through the washing machine. Do not wash the uniform with other clothes, especially towels. Most clothes contain cotton or a cotton blend. The lint will come off and cling to the jersey's letters and numbers. You can prevent damage to numbers and lettering by turning the jersey inside out during washing.
After the uniform has pre-soaked, fill the washer with cool water and detergent and wash as recommended on the care label. Never use hot water. Even if the uniform is white, the lettering and numbers are colored and can fade. Do not add fabric softener as this may reduce the uniform's ability to absorb perspiration.
Forget the Heat After the Game
Never put a hockey jersey or uniform in a clothes dryer. High heat causes shrinking, sets in stains, and can fade colors. Hang the uniform to air dry away from direct sunlight.
Blood, Sweat, and Tears
I know there is no crying in hockey, but there is blood and that means cold water. Hot water will only set blood stains and make them nearly impossible to remove. The presoaking techniques will usually take care of stains. Inspect the uniform before you put it into wash and treat any remaining stains with a stain remover or by rubbing in extra detergent.
Don't Forget Your Gear
Most hockey gear-skip the helmet, skates, and stick-like the chest protector, elbow pads, shin-guards, and gloves can be washed in a regular warm-water cycle in the washer. It is best to use a front load or top load high-efficiency washer without a center agitator. They are more gentle on the equipment. Do not overload the washer and always allow the gear to air dry. Never place in a dryer.