Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Owner's Guide to Wrist Guard & Elbow and Knee Pad Care and Replacement

You know what I'm going to say, right? Your gear will wear out.

But before that, it will stink.

You can keep your gear smelling better by 1) wearing some kind of fabric underneath, and 2) hanging it up to dry between practices. With regard to the former, your mileage may vary. Leggings, tights, or gaskets work under knee pads, and try socks with the toes cut off under elbow pads and even wrist guards. But, you may prefer to wear your gear on bare skin for various reasons. I have tiny little T-Rex hands and don't wear anything under my wrist guards, which obstruct my grip too much as it is. Result: my wrist guards smell the worst and fall apart faster than any of my other gear.

Washing Your Gear
Yes, you. Your gear. For the love of god.

Some people say that gear should be handwashed; but if you ask me, that way lies unwashed gear. I just throw my gear in the washing machine set to cold and delicate. Just a small amount of detergent will do, you can put a bit of bleach to kill bacteria. Not too much or too often, which will eat up the neoprene and elastic. No fabric softener, which will soften them. And obviously don't dry your gear in the dryer, just hang it up. After a spin cycle, it's practically dry and should completely air-dry within 24 hours.

Since I wear stuff under my knee and elbow pads, they only have to be washed every month or so. Wristguards and booties are another story, because I wear them on bare skin. Believe me, they have to be washed often; but they're too small to make up a machine load, so I do handwash them. I soak them in a plastic container--one of those containers that rotisserie chicken comes in, but whatever--with a squirt of antibacterial soap, because it's handy and I figure it can't hurt. I let them sit for a few hours, shaking occasionally. Then I rinse them and roll them up in a towel to squeeze out most of the water, and hang them up. They're usually dry within 24 hours, too.

Replacing Your Gear
The reason I'm not too fussy about washing my gear with kid gloves is, first of all, it gets beaten the hell up on the track, I figure it can deal with the washing machine. And secondly, it's not going to survive the aforementioned beating forever anyway. Gear with cracked shells or ripped fastenings should be replaced immediately. Stretched fastenings can cause your pads to slip at the worst moment, so check periodically that your gear still fits snugly. For normal wear and tear, Roe—our athletic trainer extraordinaire—recommends replacing knee pads every six months and elbow pads and wrist guards every season.