Get the Stink Out

Show of hands: whose gear does not stink? Ah, those of you who raised your hand are beginning lacrosse players, aren’t you? While the stench of players wearing smelly gear on the sidelines is a great deterrent for warding off well-intending parents, are you risking the life of your gear or possibly your own life?

For some, allergies to mold, mildew, and certain pollens can be increased exponentially, causing asthma to flare up, even anaphylaxis to occur (difficulty breathing, life threatening).  Dr. Ritchie C. Shoemaker, a renowned expert on the subject of mold and mildew, warns of harmful neurotoxin effects that damage nerve tissues. In an article published in Nexus Magazine by researcher, Luke Curtis, there’s indication mold leads to certain kinds of cancer. Isn’t it enough to avoid a bone crushing play out on the field?

Before we can even talk about how to get rid of the odor and the cause of the odor–mold and mildew–let’s talk about what causes mold to grow. Mold is a fungus, much like a dandelion with spores that grow and multiply. Mold doesn’t require sunlight, instead it grows in dark, damp environments. Sound anything like your gear duffel bag? In other words, shrugging off your rib protector and tossing it in with your elbow pads, helmet, shoes, and gloves right after sweating in it is every mold spore’s dream come true. Granted, you’re not always going to be able to spread your gear out on a sunny patch of turf and let nature’s heat dryer do its work. The sooner you can get your gear dried out, tho, the better.

The first defense is keeping your gear dry. Deodorizer sprays aren’t necessarily the most ideal solution as they, too, will moisten the gear. If you elect to use them (or your mother insists you use it before you’re allowed to climb into the car headed home), choose one with anti-fungal properties and carefully follow the instructions. And like with leaving the gear wet with your sweat, let the spray dry before stowing it.

As soon as possible, get the gear out of the duffel and into a cool, dry, and preferably lighted space. The light will prevent the mold spores from reproducing, as will the cold. Most gear shouldn’t be put into a dryer without first reading the manufacturer’s instructions as it can potentially void the warranty and damage the gear. If the manufacturer does not mention anything about drying the equipment, put it in at a low/no-heat setting and check frequently for any sign of melting or breaking down.

Bleach, specifically chlorine, will kill most molds but it can also damage gear. Before jumping into a chlorinated swimming pool or adding a cup to the wash, carefully read the manufacturer’s suggestions and warnings. Less is more in this case. A pre- and post-seasonal washing with chlorine, if permitted, is the best route to go. You definitely don’t want to do it more often than that as it will degrade the materials.

There are products made to eliminate mold and mildew specifically in athletic equipment. Exercise caution before making a purchase. Do your research. Does the manufacturer’s claim hold true or are there reviews that show the opposite? Has anyone reported the product has ruined their gear?

Some players will thread their equipment on their shaft, allowing it to dry. This isn’t a bad idea. Remember to invert your gear so the wet sides are getting the most exposure to the sun and air. Don’t forget to pull the liner out of your gloves. We’ve seen various lacrosse shops sell drying racks. Essentially these are PVC pipes glued together to stand on their own with arms to support your gear. A hack saw and some plumbing sealant will do the job if you’re industrious. For that matter, if you are good at that, you should consider slapping a bunch of them out and selling them at a lacrosse swap meet or practice. Clothes lines in bathrooms or the backyard work just as well. Surely a bit of creativity on your part will allow you to figure out a way to get your gear dried as quickly as possible, just avoid man-made heat like the dryer or a blow-dryer which can melt and destroy your gear.

Another trick some players will use comes by way of dryer sheets. You can pick up a huge box of them most anywhere for less than a bottle of Gatorade. Slap a few into a baggie and slip it into your duffel bag before each practice/game. When you’re done and packing up, tuck a sheet into your helmet, gloves, elbow pads, and a few into your shoulder/rib protectors. We recommend at least five (okay, two, maybe three) get stuffed into your cleats. Don’t forget your athletic supporter, too. Unfortunately mold and mildew in that area can cause a pretty bad case of jock-itch.

What tried and true solutions have you discovered? Have you tried a remedy only to find out that it didn’t work or worse yet, discolored or destroyed a piece of equipment? Share them here!

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