Nearly the entire world has come to a standstill due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and we’re all doing our part by staying indoors to curb the spread of the virus. And now, confined to our homes, there’s no better time to prep our riding gear for when the curfew lifts and we can get back on our motorcycles.
Riding gear can be broadly classified into two categories – mesh and/or textile, and leather – with two very different approaches to how they should be cleaned. In this guide, we’re going to run through the basics of cleaning for both.
Our riding conditions and temperatures mean that textile/ mesh riding gear is much more commonly used than leather. The conditions we ride in also mean that they’re going to pick up on dust, dirt and grime a lot quicker than you’d like. So to keep them clean and prolong their life, here's what you need to do.
Check the instructions:
While dumping your gear into a washing machine may be the simplest way to clean it, it isn’t the most ideal. Your riding gear will have a tag sewn on to the inner lining that will tell you the best way to go about washing your gear - hand or machine-washed - and what kind of substances you should refrain from using. To keep your gear in great shape, it’s best you follow these instructions.
Remove the armour:
Irrespective of whether your gear is about to be hand-washed or machine-washed, the first step is to remove the armour – shoulder, elbow, knee and hip inserts – from their inner pockets. If this is your first time cleaning your gear, you can mark the inserts so you know where they have to go back. You can then proceed to check all the other pockets, empty them and close all zippers. Sometimes, the armour can't be removed, so in that case, just wash the gear as is.
Clean out tough spots:
Examine the exterior of your gear and look for any prominent spots or grime. Use a clean, damp cloth to try and wipe off any such marks. You may have to repeat this step a few times, and don’t run it into the fabric. If it's a tough stain, use a mild detergent and a soft toothbrush. Bug stains can be particularly hard to deal with as they stain as they disintegrate into the fabric. If you’re satisfied with how clean your gear is after this step, use a damp cloth to clean the detergent off the fabric.
Washing the gear:
Like we mentioned in the first step, you want to follow the instructions that the manufacturer has provided. But just like with every rule, there are a few exceptions. Some washing machines are capable of a very gentle wash cycle that may even be better than you scrubbing the gear down in a tub. Put your gear in the machine and use a light detergent that doesn’t contain bleach or a fabric softener as these can damage the fabric. Baby shampoo does the trick too! You also want to ensure that you don’t let the machine dry the gear
If hand-washing your gear is your only option, fill a tub with water and mix it with a light detergent. Soak your gear in it for a couple of minutes and use a cloth and soft brush to clean out stains. Be gentle on the inner lining and breathable fabric that most riding gear today comes with. Once you’re done, rinse the jacket or pant in a tub of clear water. Repeat this step until there’s no detergent left and the water runs clear when you dip your gear in it. Once that's done, resist the temptation to wring your gear dry.
Drying your gear
The ideal way to dry your gear is to put it on a hanger and let it air-dry. Do not wring it dry with your hands and avoid spin-drying it in the washing machine. If you’re short of time, the most you can do is to leave it under a fan.
Once it’s fully dry, reinsert your armour and liners, and your clean gear is ready to go.
Cleaning leather gear is completely different from cleaning textile gear. Taking care of leather doesn’t just keep it clean, but also helps it last longer.
Cleaning the interiors:
If you're lucky, your leather riding jacket, pant or race suit will come with a removable liner that is machine-washable. If so, all you have to do is toss it in for a wash and skip to the second step. If not, sunlight is your best friend. Let your leather gear breathe and air it out in the sun to remove odour after heavy usage. Keeping your leather gear healthy also has a lot to do with how you maintain it. It’s best that you let it air out, and don’t tuck it away immediately after a ride. This will keep sweat from seeping into the leather or the inner liner. If you can get your hands on a desalter, spray the inside of your leathers with it and let it dry on its own.
Cleaning the exterior:
The second step is to get some leather shampoo or leather cleaner and a clean microfibre cloth to remove bug stains and grime. Unlike with textile gear, tossing it into a machine or immersing it in a tub with soapy water will do more harm than good, so be patient and take your time with cleaning the exterior.
The third step is the most important but it's one that a lot of us tend to overlook. Keeping the leather moisturized will allow it to perform at its best and will also let it stretch better, letting you move around more, improving comfort. Brands that sell leather gear like Dainese make their own leather cleaning kits that include a conditioner, and these will be your best bet at the job. You can also use the leather conditioner you’d use for your car seats or couch. Apply the conditioner with a clean microfibre cloth and rub it into the leather. Let your piece of gear sit out for a while for the conditioner to be absorbed.
And there you have it. Your riding gear should be as clean as possible and ready for when you can get back on your motorcycle. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments section below!
In our next article, we’ll tell you all about cleaning your helmet.