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 are going to run through the basics of cleaning for both.
Our riding conditions and temperatures mean that textile/mesh riding gear is more commonly used than leather. The conditions also mean that they are going to pick up dust, dirt and grime a lot quicker than you would like. So to keep them clean and prolong their life, here is what you need to do.
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 and 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 is 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 it is easier when you have to put them back. Then, empty the other pockets and close all the zippers. Sometimes, the armour cannot 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 spots or grime. Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe off any such marks. You may have to repeat this step a few times. If it is a tough stain, use a mild detergent and a soft toothbrush. Bug stains can be particularly hard to deal with as they disintegrate into the fabric. If you are satisfied with how clean your gear is after this step, use a damp cloth to clean the detergent from the fabric.
Washing the gear
Like we mentioned in the first step, you have 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 and that may be even better than you scrubbing the gear down in a tub. Put your gear in the machine and use a light detergent that does not contain bleach or a fabric softener as these can damage the fabric. Baby shampoo does the trick too! You also have to make sure that you do not 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 the gear in it for a couple of minutes, and then 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 are done, rinse the gear in a tub of clear water. Repeat this step until there is no detergent left and the water runs clear when you take the gear out. Once that is 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 with your hands and avoid spin-drying it in the washing machine. If you are short of time, the most you can do is to leave it under a fan.
Once it is 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. Well-looked-after leather does not just mean it stays clean but it also lasts longer.
Cleaning the interiors
If you are 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 is best that you let it air out, and do not 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 the cleaning.
The third step is the most important but it is one that many of us tend to overlook. Keeping the leather moisturised will allow it to perform at its best and will also let it stretch better, letting you move around more, thereby 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. You can also use the leather conditioner you would 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 until the conditioner is absorbed. Follow these steps and your gear should be ready for your next motorcycle ride.