How To Clean Even More Sports Gear | Anyclean

updated: 03/11/2023

There’s more to cleaning sports gear than just cleaning clothing. You’ve also got the equipment itself to deal with. And this gets a bit trickier, as sports equipment is made of all sorts of different materials.

However, don’t go over the top when it comes to cleaning the equipment. You don’t really need to clean rugby balls or footballs. (However, if you want to keep an old-fashioned one made of leather in good condition, rub the leather down with a little vegetable oil, or a blend of several oils. Linseed oil is a popular choice.) You definitely shouldn’t clean cricket balls – this could be construed as ball tampering (against the rules), and the contrast between “smooth and shiny” on one side versus “slightly sticky and a little bit grimy” on the other is used by swing bowlers. You don’t really need to keep any balls clean (stop that sniggering right now!) unless it gets completely mud encrusted. Just brush the mud off with a stiff scrubbing brush.

Cleaning leather gear: Brush the worst of the muck off with a damp cloth. Once the gear has dried, work oil into the surface. You can use plain linseed oil, or make a more durable polish by melting beeswax in the linseed oil (castor oil or any other vegetable oil will do) and letting the mixture cool. You can add a few drops of essential oil into the mixture if you wish. Store in a screw-top jar. Rub this on with a soft cloth, then buff up with another cloth. Salt water can really wreck leather, so if you get salt water onto any leather goods (including ordinary shoes) then soak the item in a mixture of milk and water. Rinse well to get rid of any sour milk pong, then dry well (never dry leather in front of a radiator or in harsh sunlight). Then treat with the home-made leather polish as before.

Cleaning wooden gear: The trickiest piece of wooden sports gear to clean is a cricket bat, as this should never get wet.

The best way to clean this is to give it the good old-fashioned linseed oil treatment. Wipe the bat down with linseed oil and leave the oil to seep in. The oil will clean off the worst of any grime. Lie the bat flat while it’s drying, and keep it away from direct heat. Don’t over-oil a bat and be very careful not to oil the bit where the bat meets the handle, or the handle may come loose. If a bat does not get completely clean after the linseed oil treatment, do not worry: red marks from a ball are marks of honour. Other wooden gear can be cleaned with dilute vinegar and polished with a home-made polish made from beeswax melted in linseed or some other vegetable oil.

Metal: It’s important to keep metal free from mud and grime, as this can cause rust. Wipe the worst off with a sponge dipped in warm soapy water, then dry well. If metal needs to be bright and shiny, then mix a paste of salt and vinegar and apply this to the metal (this works best with copper, brass and bronze), followed by wiping off with a damp cloth.

Bikes: The gearing system of mountain bikes should be kept free from rust so they run smoothly. Brush off any excess mud with a scrubbing brush and warm soapy water – this can be done to the whole body of the bike. It’s not exactly natural, but the best way to keep a bike chain and gearing system well lubricated is to use old car engine oil – this does have the advantage of being sustainable, as it avoids old car oil going into the landfill.

About the author 

Nick Vassilev

Nick blogs about cleaning. He is a cleaning expert with more than 25 years of experience. He is also an NCCA-certified carpet cleaner. Founder and CEO of Anyclean.