Washing your knee sleeves is very important if you want them to last the distance. Nobody likes a stinky gym bag either! So learning the best ways to wash them depends on how gross they are. It is easy to overcomplicate this, like so many others out there, but the truth is that they are very simple to care for.
In this guide, I will go through five methods on how to take the stink out of your sleeves.
We are starting with the the basic options first and moving through to the more aggressive methods for the REALLY bad ones.
Here are 5 methods to Cleaning your Knee Sleeves
Method 1: Prevention is the best cure.
Don’t groan at this cliché, but it’s really true. Proper handling and care of knee sleeves doesn’t just involve washing them. You’ll wear them out easily if you wash the sleeves too frequently. Air dry them after every use, and don’t forget to turn them inside out. Let them dry until your next session in the box. This will prevent the bacteria and mildew from sticking to the sleeves.
Method 2: Handwash Them
Sleeves don’t wear out at the first contact with detergent (unless you use a really strong one) but you’ll extend their longevity if you avoid exposing them to cleaners and detergents. Washing them this way once a month should be enough to keep them from smelling too bad. If you are using them every day, maybe once a week would be better.
The key is to never use a strong detergent and use only less than a teaspoon of mild detergent when washing. You can also use mild shampoo, like baby shampoo. I use Johnson’s Baby Shampoo when washing mine. Don’t use the dryer to dry your knee sleeves. Let them air dry.
Method 3: Machine-Wash Them
Yes, you read that right. Some advise against this option, but in reality, who handwashes things these days? Other special treatments are probably recommended (to be explained in the succeeding sections) but it is totally fine to dump your gross knee sleeves in the washing machine with your other garments.
There are a few tips on how to do this without damaging your sleeves and reducing durability and shape of them. I put them in a separate laundry bag before throwing it in with my undergarments, washing them in the lowest setting. I also don’t from using the detergent that I use for my normal clothes.
Just as instructed in handwashing, only use a mild, liquid detergent (or baby shampoo) and use no more than a teaspoon. I use Johnson’s Baby Shampoo when washing mine.
Once you have washed them, make sure you hang them to dry naturally. Never, ever in the dryer! They will shrink and lose their spring VERY quickly.
Another good read: Difference between knee braces, sleeves and wraps
Method 4: Boil Your Knee Sleeves!?
The last two methods of this article address the “more serious” problems of used knee sleeves. If the stench from the sleeves starts to become nauseating, method 4 will be the most appropriate course of action for you. A lot of people swear by this method from Freddy Camacho of CrossFit One World.
- Put your knee sleeves in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat.
- Add a small amount of dish soap (personally, I still prefer mild laundry detergent) to the pot.
- Let your knee sleeves stay in the solution until it cools.
- Rinse your knee sleeves and allow them to air dry.
These are exactly the instructions of Freddy Camacho, although as I mentioned above, I still prefer to use mild detergent for my sleeves no matter how stinky it gets. If they STILL stink after trying this, it’s time for method 5.
Method 5: Soak Your Knee Sleeves in Vinegar.
You resort to method 5 when the bacteria and mildew have built up to the point where you literally can’t stand the smell. Don’t give in to the temptation of using bleach and other harsh cleaners. You’ll risk weakening the compression properties of your sleeves. Try mixing hot water and vinegar instead.
Here’s a very informative video by Bodybuilding Bros about how to prepare a vinegar bath for your stinky sleeves:
And here are the summary of the steps:
- Measure 3 liters of boiling water and mix with 60 – 120 ml of white vinegar.
- Soak your knee sleeves in the vinegar solution for 30 minutes, stirring it every few minutes or so.
- After 30 minutes, take out the knee sleeves from the vinegar bath and wash it with (mild) detergent.
- Air dry inside out.
If they are still gross after this, throw them out and get a new pair. Seriously, they must be super bad for none of these methods to work.
Some Closing Words
Hopefully, these methods will help you get the hang of washing your knee sleeves. You may have observed commonalities among the guidelines above.
First, I always advise in using the gentlest detergent available. You want your knee sleeves to do their job longer so don’t mess with their composition.
Second, prevention is at the top of the list and the vinegar bath at the bottom. Always go for the mildest approach when it comes to knee sleeve care. Air dry your sleeves inside out every after use. Doing so will spare you the trouble of washing them more than once a week.