Let's face it -- sweat happens. There's no escaping sweat and grime inside your football helmet after hours of intense practice and game-time wear. You can't just toss your helmet in the washing machine, but a few household items can help you keep your helmet clean and free of smelly bacteria.
The Right Cloths
The foam pads inside your helmet and the plastic covering the exterior don't hold up well under abrasive cleaning pads. Instead of grabbing the steel wool or a rough-sided sponge, stick to softer fabric cloths that won't ruin the finish or remove the protective coating of the pads. Microfiber pads work well, but a plain cotton cleaning cloth or dish towel won't harm the inside of the helmet either.
Gentle Cleansers for a Tough Job
The outside of your helmet might get filthy as you tackle into the grass, but the inside's main problem is sweat. Gentle cleansers work best, such as a mild dish-washing liquid or oxygen bleach solution. Use a damp rag and rub the cleanser over all the pads, getting in between them as best you can. Wipe the area with a rag dipped in plain water to remove the soap. This will prevent it from irritating your skin the next time you wear the helmet.
Disinfectant Sprays Aren't Optional
Bacteria from your sweat and skin cells can travel inside the pads of your helmet, so get rid of them by spraying the entire inside of the helmet with a disinfectant. Leave the helmet sitting upright on a hard surface until it's completely dry; the spray will penetrate the pads as it dries. Keep the helmet out of extreme heat or bright sunshine as it dries, as these can degrade the pads.
What to Avoid
While mild, non-abrasive cleansers are safe for the pads inside your helmet, many cleaners are not. Avoid using harsh chemicals such as bleach, ammonia or turpentine. Also stay away from many bathroom and kitchen cleaners, which often contain abrasive particles. If you don't have safe cleansers on hand and you must clean your helmet, use a rag dampened with warm water and scrub gently. Clean the helmet with the proper cleansers when possible.