When the hint of warm weather finally makes its way to me on the East Coast, I get the spring cleaning bug. It makes me want to inspect my gear and make sure everything is ready to do its job for another year of problem-free protection.
I often start with the nastiest piece of equipment, my stinky helmet. It has everything from squashed bugs, sweat, sun screen, make up, and it was sitting all winter getting stale on a shelf in my garage. Ideally, I should clean the funky liner a couple of times a year, but that is not always the case. Anyhow, I always feel better about my helmet when it has had a thorough deep clean and inspection for any damage.
There are definite do’s and don’ts when caring for a helmet. You'll want to protect your investment by keeping it clean the proper way. I’ll walk you through a deep cleaning method step by step as well as what to avoid.
1. Remove Visors, Liners, and Extras Remove your visor, liner, and pads if they can be removed. Check your helmet owner’s manual if you're uncertain how it's done. Usually, it only requires unsnapping a few snaps and gently tugging to pull them out. If you have a pinlock shield in your visor, remove the inner shield from the outer shield so you can clean both pieces on both sides. Remove all electronics and extras that can be removed from your helmet. I sometimes try to be lazy and work around it, but why risk damaging your expensive extras you so carefully saved up to buy? Better to put those to the side in a safe place. You can also inspect them for frayed wires or any wear or damage while you’re at it.
2. Clean the Shell
Soak a microfiber towel in warm water and then drape it over the shell of your helmet. This will loosen any caked on bug guts and grime reducing your urge to scrub, which you will want to avoid scratching up the outer shell. I often leave the wet towel on the helmet while I do the other steps, giving it some time to loosen the grime.
3. Wash the Liner and Pads
Use a mild soap to wash your liner. By mild, I mean no petroleum-based detergent. Many riders have used baby shampoo with no issues. Your favorite scented laundry detergent may cause irritation since the pads will be right up on your face, so take care in your choice of detergent. I like to wash mine by hand in tepid water, the same way I would wash a fancy bra. Just make sure you thoroughly rinse all detergent from the liner. It may take an extra rinse or two more than you think. Then hang up to air dry and it will be smelling nice and fresh. You can use a fan to speed up the drying, but don’t use any source of heat to avoid shrinking or damage.
4. Clean the Visor
Take care to use a soft rag to do this job. Anything too rough can scratch your visor and reduce visibility. Sometimes, all you need is a little warm water and your finger to gently rub those gross bugs away. If you’re lucky enough to wear glasses, you probably already have a microfiber cloth and lens-cleaner. These work just fine on a helmet visor. There are also many products made specifically for helmet visors. My favorite over the years has been the Wee Willy Faceshield System. It comes with the scratch-resistant spray, microfiber cloth, a squeegee on the side of the spray bottle, and a carrying case. It is small and compact making it easy to take with you on a ride.
! WARNING !
The following can damage your helmet.
Do Not Do These:
Don’t scrub the shell or visor.
Don’t use solvents or petroleum-based cleaners.
Don’t use glass cleaner or ammonia-based cleaners. Windex will destroy your visor and shell over time.
Don’t use harsh soap, like dish soap.
Don’t use fabric softener on the liner. It will prevent the moisture-wicking properties of the liner.
Don’t put the liner in a dryer or use a heat source to dry it, it will shrink or deteriorate.
Don’t put dryer sheets or sneaker odor eaters in your helmet. These can irritate your face.
After everything is nice and dry, reassemble your helmet starting with the liner and pads and then reattach the visor. Now you are ready to roll with a good-as-new helmet!