The Dennis Kirk Blog
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For many of us, the riding season is winding down and it’s time to start storing our gear away until the spring. On the last few rides, you might have started to notice that funky smell coming from the inside of your motorcycle helmet along with the bugs and dirt that has built a nice crust on the shell. To have a fresh smelling and spotless lid in the spring, it’s time to give it a nice wash. Your motorcycle helmet is the most important piece of gear that you have so it is critical to wash it correctly so the safety of the helmet is not compromised. Follow these tips to have your helmet looking and smelling like new when you hit the road again in spring.
Washing the Shell, Visor and Vents
The shell of your helmet not only protects your noodle, but it also shows off your style. When you clean it properly without doing any damage, you will continue to be safe and fashionable. If the helmet has a bunch of dirt and debris on it, you can give it a rinse with lukewarm water. If there is still some debris and crusty bugs left on it, you can take a warm wet towel and place it over the helmet for a few minutes to help loosen it up. The point of this is to get as much of the gunk off without having to scrub the shell hard, which could lead to it being scratched. Give your helmet another quick rinse after you have removed the towel.
To make sure that you get everything clean, it is a good idea to remove the shield and any vents that can be removed. If you want, you can take out the visor pivot kits for an even deeper clean. Be sure you remember how to put it back together or you might be looking all over Google to find out how.
To wash the shell, a mild soap like baby shampoo will work or you can get a cleaner made specifically for the plastics of a helmet. S100 Special Surfaces is a good product that is designed to be safe and not damage the integrity of the shell. Be sure to avoid petroleum-based cleaners because they can reduce the strength of the shell. With a warm wet micro fiber towel and the cleaner of your choice, wipe down the helmet gently. Be careful not to scrub too hard because the dirt that you are removing could leave scratches in the finish.
For helmets with a matte finish, be sure to only use warm water and a neutral detergent. The plastic cleaner can ruin the finish by leaving blemishes or even making it shiny. With a harsh enough cleaner, some matte finishes can even become sticky.
If there is still some stubborn grime or debris stuck to the vents or the visor mounting areas, you can use a soft-bristled tooth brush or a cotton swab to scrub away the gunk. When doing this, be sure not to scrub too hard so you do not leave scratches or indent the vents. Another trick to clean out the vents is to use the compressed air keyboard cleaners. This will blast off the debris without running the risk of scratches or indents.
The face shield should only be cleaned with mild soaps in lukewarm water and a non-abrasive cloth. Any cleaners that contain solvents, acids, alkali or petroleum should be avoided. They can ruin the strength of the shield by breaking down the plastic and can even leave it looking foggy. When the shield is dry, you can add an anti-fog spray to help block the fog on those colder rides.
*NEVER use window cleaner on any part of your helmet. It is not safe to use on any plastic materials.
Washing Helmet Liner and Padding
Removable Liner- The easiest way to clean a removable helmet liner and cheek pads is to do so in a washing machine. You will need to put these parts into a washing bag and wash them on the “gentle” or “hand-wash setting”. A mild detergent is fine to use and an antimicrobial detergent will help to remove the smell. Be sure to wash at a low temperature that never exceeds 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you do not want to use the washing machine, the removable helmet liner and cheek pads can be hand washed in a sink. Use a mild soap, like baby shampoo and rub it into the liner and pads and then rinse it off. Keep up this process until all of the grime stops coming out of the liner. When you see how much of the nasties come out, you might consider washing your motorcycle helmets more often.
When you are done washing the liner and pads, you can hang them up to air dry. Do not apply heat because it can cause them to shrink and then they will no longer fit the helmet properly. While the liner and pads are drying, you can now clean the inside of the helmet. To do so, use a damp cloth and wipe it down. Do not use any chemicals because it could damage the protective liner.
Non-Removable Liner- With all of the helmet parts removed, you can dunk your helmet in a solution of water and baby shampoo. After it has been sitting in the solution for a few minutes, you can start to clean it with your hands. To do so, massage the liner and padding with your hands and soapy water to get the grime out. You will want to be gentle so you do not damage the helmet. When you are done with the soap, rinse the helmet off with clean water to get rid of all of the soap residue.
Now that you are done washing your helmet, it is time to dry it. The best way is to set it in front of a fan and let it air dry. As mentioned before, do not use additional heat to help dry the helmet. You should also wait to assemble the helmet until it is completely dry.
Some riders might think that it is a good idea to place a dryer sheet inside the helmet to keep it fresh, but this should be AVOIDED. Dryer sheets contain chemicals that can be left in the helmet that can be harmful to your skin and leave you with rashes and bumps. Also, washing your helmet only does so much good, for so long. It is recommended that you replace your motorcycle helmet every 3-5 years.
Now that your motorcycle helmet is all spiffed up, you will be ready to ride without the funk when spring rolls around.