Football player being tackled.

How To Clean A Football Helmet: The Ultimate Guide

Tired of the smell inside of your helmet? Your football helmet emits an awful odor that is caused by germs from perspiration, skin cells, and occasionally blood.

Because it is enclosed, moist, and warm, these germs love to develop and multiply in your football helmet.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to clean your football helmet – inside and out.

Plus, we’ll describe how to remove scratches from your helmet, to keep it looking like new.

Here are the steps involved in cleaning a football helmet:


Football player being tackled.

Before you begin cleaning the helmet, you should ideally remove the chin strap, visor, facemask, and any removable padding to make it easier to clean.

  • For the chin strap, simply undo the snap buckles and slide it off.
  • For the visor, you can unclip it and slide it up in front of the facemask to remove it.
  • For the facemask, most helmets have a pin-release system. Using a screwdriver or a pen, you can simply poke the release point, and it will release the washer on the inside holding the facemask in place. Do this on both sides of the helmet and you should be good to go.
  • For the padding, most pads can simply be pulled loose – especially the jaw pads. However, what is removable varies by helmet – be sure to check with the manufacturer. You want to remove as many pads as possible (but without damaging the helmet) for the best possible clean.

Next, you’ll want to gather the basic items you need to begin cleaning.

Select one or two soft fabric cloths or rags, or a microfiber pad. These types of cloth won’t scratch the outside of the helmet or wear down the internal pads.

Avoid using anything rough, such as the scrubbing side of a sponge or steel wool, as these are far too abrasive for use on a football helmet.

You’ll also want to use a mild, gentle cleanser. Dishwashing liquid or mild liquid detergent will work great – and you won’t need much, just one or two drops. Mix it into a container of warm water to make a soapy solution that you can use to clean the helmet.

Cleaning the exterior

This is the first and most basic step. Of course you can choose to just clean the exterior, but you really need to clean the interior as well to remove any smells and prolong the life of your helmet.

You’ll first want to remove any mud, dirt or grass stuck to the exterior of the helmet. Dip your cleaning cloth into your soapy solution and gently wipe the exterior of the helmet until it comes clean.

Alternatively, you can use a special helmet-cleaning spray on the exterior of your helmet. These sprays won’t leave streaks and are great at removing caked-on bugs or dirt.

After all of the dirt is gone, wipe the rest of the helmet with a damp cloth to remove any grease, streaks or lingering soap.

Finally, use a soft dry cloth to wipe down the exterior for a spotless shine.

Removing scratches

When you get all the dirt off of your helmet, you may notice scratches that were previously hidden by the grime. It’s actually not that hard to remove them.

While this method won’t always work for deep scratches or gouges, the appearance of most small scratches can be repaired with nail polish remover. This stuff works great due to the acetone content.

Use a Q-tip to gradually buff out any marks. Don’t apply too much nail polish remover, as it can take away the shine from your helmet.

Once you’ve done buffing, be sure to wipe away any left-over nail polish remover with a kitchen towel to ensure it doesn’t soak into your helmet.

Cleaning the chin strap

Youth football player wearing a football helmet.

Before you begin cleaning the chin strap, you’ll first want to remove the buckle and the chin shield (if your helmet has one).

Soak the chin shield in a container of warm soapy water while you clean the rest of the chin strap.

While the chin shield is soaking, use your cloth with the soapy solution to wipe down the chin strap, until it is free of dirt and grime.

You can clean the buckles with a damp rag. If the buckle is too small to clean properly with a rag, use a small cotton swab to ensure you get all of its surfaces nice and clean and free of dirt.

Now you can rinse the chin shield, strap, and buckle with cool water. Leave them on a clean towel to dry overnight – you can pat them down if necessary.

Once all of these components are dry, you can reassemble your sparkling-clean chin strap.

Cleaning the interior

The exterior of the helmet might have been covered in dirt and grass, but the interior may be even worse thanks to the sweat and dead skin cells that often build up from hours of play.

Use your soapy solution and rag to carefully wipe down the inside of the helmet. Then, soak the pads in a small container of warm, soapy water. Remember, you don’t want to use anything overly abrasive to wipe the pads, or it can break them down. Don’t put them in the washer, don’t leave them to soak for more than 20-30 minutes, and don’t use water that’s warmer than 120 degrees.

Once everything has been cleaned, get a rag and dip it in clean water to wipe off any residual soap. Then you’re ready to disinfect.

Disinfecting the interior is especially important, because the sweat that builds up inside the helmet gives bacteria a great place to grow. This will make the helmet smell quite bad if left for a long time.

To fight these bacteria, use a disinfectant spray to spray the entire interior of the helmet. Simply give it a few squirts, and leave it to dry as per the packet instructions.

Drying your helmet

While putting it in the sun might seem like the best way to dry a football helmet, it’s not a good idea. Though, sun drying makes football gloves sticky. The sunlight and extreme heat can deteriorate the helmet’s pads, causing them to break down.

Instead, place your helmet and its parts separately on a hard indoor surface (ideally in front of a fan) to help it air dry. Avoid any damp areas like the basement.

Once everything is dry, reassemble your helmet and get ready to get back on the gridiron.

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