Your bike helmet is one of the most vital pieces of cycling safety gear you can own. It protects your head in the event of a crash or fall. But over time, helmets can accumulate dirt, oil, sweat, grime and bacteria that not only make it look dirty, but also degrade the materials and affect safety performance.
That’s why it’s crucial to learn how to clean your bike helmet properly and regularly. A thorough cleaning removes contaminants, odors and allergens while helping maintain the helmet’s integrity. Following the proper techniques also improves comfort and hygiene when riding.
This comprehensive guide provides cyclists with detailed, step-by-step instructions for cleaning all parts of a bike helmet. It also shares tips for cleaning different types of helmet materials and components. With the right supplies and a little time invested, you can keep your helmet looking, feeling and performing like new.
Gather Recommended Cleaning Supplies for Bike Helmets
Before getting started, collect these recommended supplies to effectively clean all parts of your bike helmet:
- Mild liquid dish soap or cleaner made specifically for helmet cleaning
- Warm (not hot) water
- Clean microfiber cloths and soft towels
- Small, soft bristled brush or toothbrush
- Cotton swabs and/or cotton balls
- Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
- Deodorizing/disinfecting spray for sports gear
- Baking soda and vinegar for scrubbing
- Old toothbrush for scrubbing vents
- Extra-fine grit sandpaper or steel wool (for scuffs)
- Bike polish and/or conditioner
- Small bowl for diluting mild soap or creating paste
Avoid using harsh chemicals, abrasive scrub pads, power washer sprays or anything that could degrade the helmet materials. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for any specific care guidelines.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Cleaning Your Bike Helmet
Follow these detailed steps to clean every part of your bike helmet safely and effectively:
Prep the Helmet for Cleaning
Before washing, prep the helmet:
- Remove any pads or liners that are removable. Set aside for separate cleaning later.
- Unbuckle all strap clips and loosen straps so you can fully access the shell.
- Check warning labels for any cleaning guidelines from the manufacturer.
1. Rinse in Lukewarm Water
- Fill a clean sink or tub with lukewarm water. Water that is too hot can damage the helmet.
- Fully submerge the helmet and let it soak for 10-15 minutes to loosen dried dirt and mud.
- For heavy soiling, mix a small amount of mild dish soap into the water. Avoid soaking helmet pads.
- Rinse under running water while using your hands to turn the helmet over and flush dirt out of vents.
2. Create a Mild Soap Solution
- In a small bowl or bucket, stir together warm water and a few drops of liquid dish soap until sudsy.
- For extra cleaning power, make a paste with dish soap and baking soda.
3. Wash All Exterior Surfaces
- Dip a soft brush into the soap solution. Gently scrub all exterior surfaces using circular motions.
- Focus on visors, underside, ridges and any nooks where grime collects.
- Rinse after scrubbing and repeat if needed to remove stubborn buildup.
- Avoid harsh scrubbing that could damage the shell.
4. Spot Clean Interior Padding
- For removable interior pads, gently scrub using soap, water and brush.
- Let pads air dry fully before re-inserting into helmet.
- For non-removable pads, use a clean microfiber cloth to spot treat with soap and water.
5. Flush Out Vents
- Mix a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water.
- Dip an old toothbrush into the solution. Gently twist and rotate it around each vent to scrub away grime.
- Rinse vents thoroughly until water runs clear.
6. Sanitize and Deodorize Interior
- Lightly spritz helmet lining and interior with isopropyl rubbing alcohol. This disinfects and kills odor-causing bacteria.
- Allow helmet to air dry fully before wearing again.
7. Deep Clean Straps and Clips
- Soak a clean microfiber cloth in the soap solution. Twist the cloth into the shape of the strap clip.
- Insert cloth into each clip and along full length of straps to scrub away body oils and dirt.
- Rinse strap clips thoroughly after scrubbing.
8. Remove Scuffs and Scrapes
- Use extra-fine grit sandpaper to gently buff out any scuffs or scrapes on the shell exterior.
- Be careful not to grind away too much of the surface.
- Afterwards, apply a thin coat of bike polish and buff the shell with a soft cloth until it shines.
9. Rinse Away All Residue
- Once all scrubbing is complete, rinse the entire helmet under running water until it feels slippery and all soapy residue is gone.
- Shake off excess water and let air dry out of direct sunlight.
10. Reassemble the Helmet
- Once fully dry, re-insert clean padding and re-fasten chin straps according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Closely inspect for cracks or damage after cleaning. Seek professional input if concerned helmet may be compromised.
Tips for Cleaning Specific Bike Helmet Parts and Materials
In addition to the overall helmet cleaning, pay special attention when washing these parts and materials:
- EPS foam lining – Never submerge. Gently scrub with soapy water then disinfect. Let fully dry before reusing to prevent mold.
- MIPS liner – Remove this slippery impact-absorbing liner before washing helmet. Handle carefully and air dry.
- Leather or nylon straps – Scrub with mild soap and water. Rinse thoroughly. Condition leather periodically.
- Plastic shell – Avoid harsh chemicals. Use bike polish to restore sheen after buffing out minor scuffs.
- Helmet visors – Clean with shampoo/soap and water. Apply bike polish or plastic conditioner to rejuvenate.
- Graphics or stickers – Wipe gently with a damp, soapy cloth. Test cleansers first to prevent peeling graphics.
Why It’s Vital to Regularly Clean Your Bike Helmet
Cleaning your bike helmet takes a bit of extra time but yields big benefits:
- Maintains helmet’s safety standards – Dirt, oils and grime degrade the EPS liner’s ability to absorb impacts. A clean helmet performs optimally.
- Eliminates unpleasant odors – Sweat and bodily oils cause bacteria and fungi growth. Disinfecting kills microbes that create foul smells.
- Improves comfort – Getting rid of grime and buildup helps prevent skin irritation and acne breakouts when riding.
- Extends usable life – Regular cleaning prevents corrosion and deterioration of materials so your helmet lasts longer.
- Restores appearance – A deep clean removes unsightly grime buildup so helmet looks like new.
Common Questions About Cleaning Bike Helmets
How often should a bike helmet be cleaned?
For frequent riders, experts recommend deep cleaning your helmet at least once a month. Also clean immediately after muddy, rainy or heavy sweating rides. Periodic spot cleaning between deep cleans helps too.
Can I machine wash my bike helmet?
No. The forces of machine washing and heat can degrade helmet materials over time. Always hand wash using the recommended cleaning methods.
What should be avoided when cleaning bike helmets?
Avoid harsh chemicals, power washer sprays, abrasive scrubbers, and soaking padding. These can damage the helmet shell, lining or chin straps. Prolonged UV exposure can also degrade materials.
How can I freshen my helmet between washes?
Use antimicrobial/deodorizing sprays made for sports helmets to kill bacteria and odors. Gently wipe grime off the shell with a slightly damp cloth. Spot clean pads and straps as needed.
Is it necessary to wash new helmet pads before wearing?
Yes, wash removable padding in mild soap and water before wearing a new helmet. This removes any chemical residues left over from manufacturing. Let pads fully air dry before inserting into helmet.
Like any item of protective sports gear, bike helmets require regular maintenance and cleaning for optimal safety and performance. Following these detailed cleaning steps and tips will effectively remove all contaminants from your helmet.
Investing a few extra minutes after rides to thoroughly clean all parts of your helmet will maintain its protective integrity for seasons of comfortable cycling ahead. Be sure to replace your helmet according to the manufacturer’s expiration timeline for guaranteed safety.
Mahin Abrar is a passionate writer and outdoor enthusiast. As a regular contributor to Bikepics.net, Mahin shares his knowledge and experiences in the fields of biking, cycling, hiking, and camping. With a deep understanding of these activities and a keen eye for detail, he offers valuable insights and practical advice to help readers get the most out of their adventures. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, Mahin's writing is sure to inspire you and guide you on your journey.