How to Clean Football Pads the Easy and Correct Way

Football player wearing Battle Sports "Graffiti" Chrome Football Back Plate

There's no other way to say it: football pads can get nasty. Every player knows (and dreads) that awful, signature smell, along with those scuffs, smudges, and discolorations. More often than not, it appears as though players across age levels throw on football pads that haven't been washed in ages. Looking right at you, shoulder pads.

 This is an especially common and annoying problem when summer or fall practices arrive. Distracting and downright gross, this is not a smell any player needs to put up with. Simply put, life is more pleasant when football players, parents, and equipment staff know how to clean football pads and back plates the right way.


It’s never fun to clean pads or back plates, but this is a necessary evil. Once this chore is removed from your athletic checklist, you’ll feel fresh and earn that elite feeling of relief. 

Dreading the cleaning process? Keep the hassle to a minimum and check out these pro tips for the best way to clean football pads and back plates. That way, the next time you hit the field, you'll only discover the sweet smell of victory.

Create a Regular Football Pad Cleaning Routine

Football pads call for regular cleaning. The simplest reason? If sweat and dirt are trapped for too long, the smell will be almost impossible to remove. Every player knows at least one teammate who had to buy a completely new set of pads because they couldn't get the funky odor out of their old pads. Don't be that player!


It doesn't take a lot of effort to ditch the grime and the terrible smells that quickly take over pads. When in doubt, wash your pads at least once a week. And amp up the frequency when you endure a particularly sweaty or grimy practice. Once the season begins and games start up, plan to wash your pads the day after each game.

Keep in mind that there's more to cleaning football pads than odors alone. Bacteria can quickly take over and yes, this could make you more vulnerable to some equally nasty and dangerous infections. Don't let that be an issue — the only thing you want to catch on the field is the rock!

Football Pad Cleaning Methods

You're well aware that it's important to clean football pads, but that doesn't make this chore any more enjoyable. Good news: it's pretty easy once you find the right method.

The Time-Tested Football Pad Cleaning Method

The best strategy is always the one you stick with for the long run. If nothing else, keep a spray bottle filled with a cleaning solution (or a pack of disinfecting wipes) in your locker. You will always feel confident that you have the right cleaning supplies on hand.

A quick wipe down or spray after each practice will keep those pads looking and smelling fresh — just hang them up and let them air dry. They'll be good to go the next time you need them.


What Types of Cleaning Solutions Work Best for Cleaning Football Pads?

Next consideration: what kind of cleaning solutions should you use to take care of those foul-smelling pads? There are almost too many options to explore.

Some brands like Vapor Fresh, Clear Gear, and Hex Performance sell deodorizing and disinfecting sprays with everything you need to keep your gear clean. These are easy to use, but with this simplicity comes a price: these sprays can get expensive, fast. 

A Dependable DIY Football Pad Cleaning Method

Not ready to spend a fortune on cleaning solutions? No worries; there are a few decent DIY options available. Shoulder pads and back plates call for a combination of white distilled vinegar and water. Mix two parts water with one part vinegar and fill a spray bottle with the homemade solution.

Give each piece of gear a good spraying — and then let each dry naturally. Just spray without wiping down the gear, as the last thing you want is to accidentally remove much-needed solutions. Air drying is essential. If you need your gear dry as soon as possible, set it in front of a fan for a few hours.

Still wondering how to clean back plates? Thankfully, you can recycle the same pad cleaning gameplan; the same cleaning methods used for shoulder pads can be used for your back plates as well.

The Easiest & Swiftest Way to Sidestep Football Pad Odors

The final option is completely free of charge and easy to execute: air out your gear. As soon as practice is over, set your football pads out in the sun and let them dry. Since most modern pads are constructed using antimicrobial materials, air drying should help sidestep odor accumulation more than you expect. Nothing should stand in the way of this simple and effective cleaning technique.

Keep Your Football Gear Fresh with Battle Sports

Now that you know how to clean football pads and back plates, it's time to put your new skills to good use. When in doubt, remember: regular cleaning or airing out can make a world of difference. With a little effort and consistency, you'll be armed with the freshest football gear on the field.