If you have a child who enjoys athletics, you know how quickly their sports uniforms can get dirty, stain-ridden and smelly. It only takes one slide into second during practice or one tackle at the goal line to ruin the looks of their new uniform. As a parent, I know it’s tempting to use strong cleansers for cleaning stains and dirt, but today’s uniform fabrics require the same TLC as your kids’ sports equipment.
Sports uniforms are constructed with synthetic performance fabrics that are moisture-wicking, flexible and durable. But all that performance comes at a cost. Synthetic fabrics require a delicate cleaning approach and are more susceptible to odors than natural fabrics. From tough stains to foul odors, here are 10 tips you need to know for getting your child’s sports uniforms smelling clean and looking great—without damaging their performance capabilities.
How to Tackle 5 of the Most Common Kids’ Sports Uniform Stains
From grass and dirt on the field to snacks and drinks at practice, kids’ team uniforms have to endure abuse from outdoor terrain and kids’ messiness. Whether it’s sweaty pits or blood, children and sports mean you need a strong offense to win the war on stains.
Mud is only wet dirt—right?
Dirt spreads easier and stains more when it’s wet and it seems to find its way onto everything from ball caps to cleats. Start by hanging the uniform to let the mud dry. When it’s dry, head outside and brush off as much dirt as possible. Now you should be able to see the real mud stains.
To get rid of mud stains on synthetic fabrics, you’ll use an enzyme detergent. Enzyme products for laundry attack specific soils with natural and processed ingredients that break down the soils, so they wash away easier. Rub the detergent on the stain and let it sit for 15 minutes before you throw them in the washer.
The grass is greener…everywhere!
Anyone who thinks the grass is greener on the other side has never had a child who played sports! For athletic uniforms, all grass seems to be plenty green, and it leaves the stains to prove it. Cleaning grass stains is tough because of the bold pigment of chlorophyll and how quickly it sets in fabrics. Tackle grass stains as soon as you notice them.
Liberally pour isopropyl rubbing alcohol over the grass stain and let it soak in for 10 minutes. Rinse the stain with cold water and the stain should fade noticeably. Then, soak the stain with an enzyme detergent and use a soft bristle toothbrush to work it into the fibers. Let it sit for 15 minutes before you start your load of laundry.
Kids’ sports uniforms are magnets for spilled juice boxes and sports drinks
Athletics means sweat and sweating means kids get thirsty. Those juice drinks and sports drinks drip onto jerseys, shorts and even shoes. Here’s how to handle drink stains and get that uniform ready for game time.
Rinse with cold water as you work out as much of the stain as possible with your fingers. For stubborn stains, mix one part white vinegar and two parts water and soak the stained spot with your mixture. Let it sit for 10 minutes and rinse with cold water. If the stain persists, you can use an enzyme detergent or stain stick before you wash the uniform.
Get rid of those tough, ugly sweat stains before they set for good
Sweat stains are harder to remove from your kids’ sports uniforms once they’ve dried. If you aren’t cleaning sweat stains when they’re still damp, you could end up with those unsightly yellow pit stains and other discoloration. Rinse the area with cold water and put it into the washer before it dries.
Chances are you’re not going to catch that stain before it dries, though. Equal parts lemon juice and water, white vinegar and other homemade cleansers clean synthetic fabrics gently and naturally. Pour the stain remover onto the stain and lightly scrub with an old toothbrush. For tougher, built-up sweat stains, you may have to turn to your enzyme detergent before you wash the uniform.
Blood, sweat and tears are part of the game—but stains don’t have to be!
Whether it’s your t-ball playing toddler with a scraped knee or a teen half-back with a bloody nose, blood-stained uniforms are inevitable. The first step for treating blood stains is to rinse them with cold water while working the stain with your fingers to dissolve as much blood as possible.
If the bloodstain is on a white uniform, soaking it in hydrogen peroxide will most likely dissolve any remaining stain. Just pour it on and wait 5 minutes before washing. If the uniform is a color other than white, skip the peroxide and grab the salt. Cover the stain with a layer of salt and let it sit until it dries. The salt will absorb blood and you can easily brush away the loose particles before you wash the uniform.
WARNING: Do not use bleach to whiten or clean kids’ team uniforms. Most of these uniforms are made with synthetic fabrics that bleach will ruin.
Use These 5 Tips for Washing and Drying Kids’ Sports Uniforms
Once you’ve pre-treated your child’s sports uniform to get rid of those nasty stains, it’s time to throw everything in the washer. As tempting as it is to use hot water and lots of detergent to get the grime and odors out, it’s important to understand that performance fabrics require a little extra TLC.
Wash your kids’ sports uniform as soon as possible after treating stains
Washing your kids’ team uniform as quickly as possible is the best way to get rid of the bacteria that creates odors. If shuffling the kids to ball practice, housework and other responsibilities keep you from washing the uniform right away, hanging it to dry will prevent most odor-causing bacteria from growing.
When you’re ready to wash those dirty uniforms, use the delicate cycle and cold water. Hot water can damage synthetic fabrics causing shrinkage, reduced performance, and can leave you with a shorter lifespan. Turn uniforms inside-out to get rid of sweat and body oils that accumulate on the inner fabric.
Jerseys require even more TLC
Turn your jerseys inside out for better cleaning and to protect numbers, patches and stitching. Your child’s jersey numbers can peel and tear, so the inside-out approach protects them from abrasion.
After washing, turn the jersey right side out. Remember to shake it loose to prevent the numbers from sticking together. Avoid machine drying and ironing to prevent letters and numbers from peeling and sticking. Hang or lay the jersey flat outside and let the sun dry it naturally. If the sun is really beating down, cover the jersey with a thin fabric to protect the numbers and decals.
Go easy on the detergent and skip the fabric softener
Kids’ sports uniforms collect a lot of dirt, stains and odors, so more detergent should equal more clean, right? Wrong. Using too much detergent for the breathable, synthetic fabrics found in most team uniforms does more harm than good.
Moisture-wicking fabrics repel moisture to keep kids cool and comfortable, but they also repel water in the rinse cycle. Too little rinsing leaves a film on the uniform that locks in the odor-causing bacteria and grime you’re trying to remove. Use half the detergent you’d use for regular fabrics and uniforms will get just as clean and be less likely to retain odors.
The worst thing you can do when washing sports uniforms is to use fabric softener. Fabric softeners damage synthetic fabrics and leave behind a film that can trap more odors. Fabric softener will degrade performance fabrics and make them increasingly difficult to clean. What’s more, softeners can also decrease their moisture-wicking abilities and flexibility. You’ll end up with a uniform that doesn’t fit or perform as well as it should.
Air dry sports uniforms to keep them looking newer longer
Drying uniforms in the dryer damages performance fabrics and alters the shape, flexibility and fit. Exposing your kids’ sports uniforms to the heat and friction of a dryer weakens elastic fibers. Over time, this can lead to tears and holes, shortening the uniform’s lifespan. For best performance and long wear, always air dry uniforms instead of putting them in the dryer.
Use these tips for cleaning your child’s sports uniforms and their gear will last longer, perform better and smell fresher all season long. To find more time to haul the kids to practice and ball games and to keep their uniforms fresh and clean, The Maids has the answer.