Everyone knows that if you look after your gear, the gear will last longer. It is likely that you clean your bike often, so it stays in working order, but what about your helmet? It is true that a bike has functioning parts, but a helmet is made up of complex componentry that you want to keep in the best condition so you can have confidence in its ability to save your life.
Why Clean the Helmet?
Having excess dirt, dust, and chemicals (sunscreen etc.) from the helmet will lead to corrosion of the helmet over time. The EPS foam layer (makes up the bulk of the helmet) is very susceptible to damage and is generally only protected by the outer polycarbonate (plastic) shell.
By cleaning the helmet regularly, it will increase the lifespan of the helmet and will ensure it keeps protecting your head for as long as possible.
How to Clean the Helmet?
Cleaning the helmet doesn’t have to be complicated. It is made to get wet, and it is strong enough to withstand a fair bit of force, so you can give it a good clean without being too worried about it breaking.
If you have a removable liner, remove it gently first. See notes for cleaning below.
If you do not have a removable liner, it is okay for it to get wet, so give it a quick rinse down with a bit of freshwater. Ensure you dry the liner properly after washing the helmet.
With a soft, damp wipe or a soft sponge, clean the outer plastic shell of the helmet. Ensure that you clean in and around the vents, as well as around the edges of the helmet and the visor (if applicable).
For the inside of the helmet, again, use a damp cloth to get rid of any dirt or chemicals. This will be easier if the inner liner can be removed, otherwise just work around the liner. The plastic retention system at the back of the helmet will also likely need a clean, so ensure you wipe this also.
Once you have done cleaning, make sure you DRY everything! Leave it outside for an hour or two to air dry, and do not store it until it has fully dried!
How to Clean Bike Helmet Pads
Removable pads can be put into the washing machine (cold wash, gentle cycle), but this can lead to excessive wear over time.
We recommend soaking them in a bucket/sink of cold water with a bit of washing powder. Wring them out, and hang to dry. Do NOT put the pads in the drier!
How to Clean Bike Helmet Straps?
Wipe the straps gently with the cloth, taking care to wipe the buckle and any other plastic pieces on the straps. If water alone doesn’t remove the dirt, try using a little dishwashing detergent or washing powder with warm water. And if that still doesn’t work, try a tougher bristle brush to scape away that annoying mud!
What NOT to do
Do not hose the helmet down. There are some fragile pieces to the helmet, and a high-pressure hose may do some damage. The inner layers and the fitting systems may not respond well to being blasted by a hose! Use a wipe/cloth instead and give it all a good wipe down.
Do not use any chemical cleaners which may react with the plastic or foam and degrade the quality of the helmet. A dishwashing detergent will generally do the trick.
Do not use a harsh brush on the foam or outer plastic as it may leave scrapes or scratches, which you want to avoid!
Only air dry the helmet, but don’t leave it in the sun for too long! And definitely do not store the helmet damp.
How to Store a Helmet
Where you store a helmet will also largely affect the lifespan of the helmet. Things such as sunlight, chemicals, extra weight on top of the helmet will eventually wear down the structural integrity of the helmet, causing it to have a shorter lifespan than necessary.
We recommend storing the helmet out of direct sunlight, away from any chemicals, and not beneath anything heavy. I tend to store my helmet on the handlebars of my bike, where it won’t get knocked by people rummaging around in the garage and has no potential of chemicals or sunlight getting onto it.
Alternatively, if you’re storing it for a wee while, keeping it in a box- not under any pressure- will keep it from degrading faster than necessary.
It is also important to know when to replace a helmet- if you are interested, see here.
If your helmet is a damaged beyond what a thorough cleaning can fix and you think it might be time for a new one, check out the best budget mountain bike helmets, the best mountain bike helmets with MIPS or how to choose a mountain bike helmet.