People keep asking me how I clean my pads, so I figure I'd just write it up for good. Everyone has their own way of cleaning their gear. You should use whatever way you like best - this is just mine.
I skate with a rec league, so at best, I'll have two "real" practices a week, plus whatever skate time I can fit in on my own. I don't take very good care of my gear - I don't spray it down after practice, I don't really even ever take it out of my bag. I only wash it when it gets to gag-worthy level, which is usually every 4 months, or as soon as it hits 90 degrees in Denver, whichever happens first.
So. How I to wash your gear. (And by gear, I mean wrist guards, elbow pads, and knee pads. Obviously, DO NOT drop your bearings in the washing machine!)
Step 1: Wait until your gear becomes ungodly stinky. Dead skunk on a July day in the sun with flies stinky. (Or whenever you feel like cleaning it. In fact, you should probably NOT wait as long as I do.)
Step 2: Remove gear from your bag. Try not to gag.
Step 3: Put white vinegar in a clean spray bottle. Lay gear out, and spritz down. When I say "spritz," I mean "go to town." Undo the velcro bits and get every last bit of surface. If any of the guard-y bits are removable, feel free to remove them, but I never have on mine. Make sure it soaks in and gets to the foam, the vinegar will help kill the bacteria that is actually living in there, and causing all the stinkifying. Spray the velcro. The elastic. Inside the little air holes that serve as ventilation straight in to the padding. EVERYWHERE. Do this in a well ventilated area. I do it in my bathtub, with the windows open, at night.
Step 4: Let the vinegar soak in, to the point of evaporating or nearly evaporating. I usually let it hang out overnight.
Step 5: Place gear in lingerie/mesh washing bags. I put the kneepads in one, and the wrist guards/elbow pads in another.
Step 6: Put in washing machine with about a cup of baking soda and detergent. I use Boulder 100% Natural Laundry Detergent, which I picked up at CostCo for like $10. Use however much is equivalent to what you'd use for a (whatever you plug in as the size as your load of laundry) load of laundry. (Win is also supposedly good at getting rid of odors, but I've never used it.) Boulder has a very mild citrus scent. I'd recommend using something similar, or unscented, to avoid irritating your skin later.
Step 7: This depends on your washing machine. I set mine for a "large" load and a "delicate/knit" washing cycle. Do whatever approximates a lot of water and delicate swishing. The water temperature should be cold wash and cold rinse. Let the machine fill up, and let the gear soak for a few minutes.
Step 8: WASH YOUR GEAR.
Step 9: Take your gear out and let it line dry in the sun. The UV from the sun also helps kill the bacteria.
Step 10: Clean gear! Sniff test: does it smell tolerable? If so, you're done! If it still smells like vinegar (if it still smells like skunk, it may just be time for new gear), run it through the wash (same steps) and line dry again.
That's it! It may sound like a lot, or time consuming, but I swear that this process has rescued my gear from the point of no return every single time I think I've hit the point of no return. The key, I think, is the one-two punch of bacteria elimination (the vinegar AND the UV), and then swishing out all the dead bacteria. (Obviously, I am not a scientist. That is guesswork.)
Give it a shot and let me know what you think!