How to Clean Sparring Gear

by Emily Lakewood – August 17, 2014

Did you ever leave your sparring equipment bag in the car after finishing your workout? The next morning you may enter your vehicle and say “what is that smell”? It smells like something died in this car. You start sniffing around trying to determine what animal had expired in your car, when you reach your sparring bag. You have determined that the smell is emanating from your bag. You wonder what animal got trapped in your bag then died. You carefully move your gear around trying to find the dead critter. When none is found, you finally are under the realization that the deathly smell is actually coming from your sparring gear.  If you have been in this situation before, then this article on “How to Clean Sparring Gear” is for you!

After a week straight of 1 ½ to 2 hours a day sparring camp, these intense workouts have left your bodily smell saturated in your sparring equipment. How do you get the smell out of your gear? Do people actually think of me as the “smelly sparer”? You go to the most expert person you know on these matters. MOM, my sparring gear smells! Your mom has several methods she knows to attempt to remove the smell. Instead of going through them all, I have listed the one that my mom says works best for my gear. Note: in no way are we attempting to say we found the ultimate solution; we are just informing you the method that works best for my equipment. Is this the best way to remove the smell from sparring equipment? Probably not, but again after several experiments, this is the process that we are currently using:

Sparring Equipment / Gear Cleaning Process

By Emily Lakewood, April 27, 2016

1) Obtain an equivalent file folder plastic container with lid – See Figure 1.

  • I am using a 1996 Rubbermaid file folder container whose dimensions are listed as: 11 ¾ inches X 17 5/8 inches (no third dimension)
  • I measured the main portion of the container as 12 inches X 15 inches x 10 inches (w x d x h)\
  • Container I used fits gear for a 110 pound 5 foot female
  • For a bigger student, you may require a bigger container – don’t forget the lid


Figure 1 – File Container
 RubbermaidFileFolderContainer  RubbermaidFileFolderContainer_View2


2) Place Sparring Gear in plastic container in the following order:

  • Chest Gear in first, fold the top portion of the gear under the chest gear
  • Foam Head Gear (Note:  for newer foam head gear, I have been notified that using this procedure multiple times along with the washing machine cycle can cause the head gear to crack.  TKD Essentials no longer recommends cleaning the head gear using this method.  Head gear manufacturers now recommend cleaning their product with a cloth and if necessary, clean it with normal dish washing soap suds,  Under no circumstances should you attempt  to clean the head gear with any detergent with alcohol or chemical additives; these may cause damage.  They also suggest prolong exposure to sunlight be avoided to guarantee the product will function as intended, 04/27/16).
  • Hand Gear
  • Feet / Foot Gear
  • Forearm Gear

3) Add 4 tablespoons regular table salt

  • I had iodized on hand, I don’t think it matters what type – see figure 2.

4) Add Cold Water

5) Put Lid on Container to hold the sparing gear under water

6) Let the sparring gear Soak in the salt solution for at least 8 hours

7) After the 8 hours, Empty Salt Water from the container

8) Put sparring gear in washing machine

9) Turn on cold water and start to fill washer

10) Add “All Liquid Detergent” for the size wash

  • I use “All With Stainlifters Oxi” – see figure 2.
  • Wash sparring gear in a separate wash
  • Do not add any other clothes to the wash

11) Add ¾ cup of White Vinegar – see figure 2.

  • Using anything other than White vinegar may add a color tint to your sparring gear

12) Add ¼ cup 20 Mule Team Borax Natural Laundry Booster – see figure 2.


Figure 2 – Cleaning Products
MotonIodizedSaltWeb AllWithStainlftersOxiWeb SrDistilledWhiteVingarWeb 20MuleTeamBoraxNaturalLaundryBoosterWeb

13) Complete a Cold Water Wash cycle

14) Hang the sparring items up until dry

  • I have noticed that this may take at least 5 hours

 15) I have also performed this process on the actual Sparring Bag, but this requires executing the above process, steps 2 through 14, just for the sparring bag alone.

  • Obviously you have removed all your valuables from the bag first


Once again, this process may not work for you, but as of the above date, it is the best procedure that we have used to extract the smell from the TaeKwonDo sparring gear. If you have an intense sparring camp, such as 6 weeks of 1 ½ to 2 hours (minimum) a day, then you may have to perform this procedure every weekend to alleviate the smell from your sparring gear.