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The Best Ways to Wash Climbing Apparel

May 7, 2019

There are many types of climbing, all of which are considered to be physically demanding sports. For instance, there’s alpine climbing, sport climbing, trad climbing, and bouldering, to name a few. While different, they do have something in common; they require climbers to have a considerable amount of grip strength. After all, you’ll be using your own strength to pull yourself up the wall!

As you can imagine, it works a number of muscles including your triceps, biceps, and deltoids. It also targets other parts of your body such as your core, arms, and legs. Considering this, it only makes sense that it’s a great workout. Not to mention that it comes with other health benefits as well!

Other Benefits of Climbing:

  • Improves your cardiovascular fitness
  • Boosts your self-confidence
  • Increase your flexibility and range of motion
  • Reduces stress
  • Increases your mental awareness and concentration

What Kind of Gear is Needed for Climbing?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that you need a set of specialized gear for climbing. Not only will you need a harness, one that’s sturdy enough to support your body weight, but you’ll also need gloves, climbing shoes, as well as a rope! On top of all that, you’ll need some sort of bag to pack everything.

different types of climbing gear

Given the nature of the sport, you’ll also need a helmet. The last thing that you’d want is to sustain a head injury in an accidental fall! Depending on the type of climbing that you’re doing, you might need some extra tools as well. For instance, alpine climbing would require things like ice axes and screws.

Why It’s Important to Keep your Climbing Gear Clean

Chances are, you’ll be physically exhausted by the end of a climbing session. The sport utilizes many of the body’s muscles, after all! Considering that, it’s not surprising to know that you’ll most likely be covered in sweat. Yes, even if you’re alpine climbing.

This goes without saying, but you always want to keep your climbing clothes clean. What does that mean? Giving them a wash once you go home. There’s nothing worse than leaving them to smell in a corner! The sweat and moisture will only cause more and more bacteria to grow on the fabric over time. That’s not the only thing to worry about either—there’s also a possibility that the germs can cause skin irritation and infection!

Not just your clothes, but you want to pay attention to your other equipment as well. Take your climbing shoes, for instance—chances are, they would have received some scuffs and whatnot from the session. Want them to last? If so, do your best to keep them in tip-top condition!

The key point is, you want to keep your gear clean. Not only is it beneficial for your health, but it would improve your climbing performance as well. Want to know how to wash the different items? Keep reading to find out!

How to Wash Climbing Shirts and Shorts

cleaning climbing shirts and shorts

Climbing shirts and shorts are typically made from synthetic fibers. There are a couple of reasons for this—one, they’re more durable. Second of all, they’re moisture-wicking (i.e. sweat is pulled to the surface where it can evaporate).

As mentioned earlier, you want to wash these items as soon as you get home. Here’s how.

Putting Your Climbing Shirts and Shorts into the Washing Machine

First things first, take your climbing shirts and shorts and turn them inside out. There are a couple of reasons why you want to do this; not only will it expose the dirt and oils to the detergent, which would make it easier to wash, but it would also minimize the amount of contact that the outer surface has on the rest of your laundry. In other words, you won’t have to worry about the items wearing down as fast.

Speaking of which, you can also add a layer of protection by using mesh laundry bags. Simply put your shirts and shorts in, zip the bag close, and put it in the machine!

Pro-tip: Yes, you can wash your climbing gear with other clothes! You might want to avoid certain items such as jackets or jeans, though, as they might cause snagging. Also, be careful of the colors that you’re putting in each load—you wouldn’t want to have to deal with bleeding issues!

Once you’ve loaded your shirts and shorts, the next step is to add the soap. Pour in a scoopful of ACTIVE detergent into the machine’s soap dispenser. Choose a gentle cycle (the setting can also be labeled as “delicate”) and wash with cold water. Do not use hot water as the temperature can cause the fabric to wear out! Similarly, avoid products such as bleach or fabric softeners.

Remove your climbing shirts and shorts after washing. There are a couple of ways that you can dry them—you can either put them on a clothesline or lay them flat to dry. Either way, be sure not to put them under direct sunlight. Never use the dryer! Even the lowest setting can cause damage.

Washing Your Climbing Shirts and Shorts by Hand

We get it—it’s not always practical to use the washing machine, especially if you just have a few items that you want to wash. In cases like that, it might be easier to wash them by hand! It’s not too difficult at all, really.

hand wash your climbing gear

You’ll need two things—a sink (or tub) and detergent. Begin by filling the latter with cold water. Add a scoopful of ACTIVE detergent to create a soapy mixture; there should be a lot of bubbles. Put your climbing shirts and shorts in once you’ve mixed the solution. Gently push the items down with your hand so that they’re completely submerged in the liquid. Let it soak for 15 to 30 minutes.

Pro-tip: Have a mud stain on your shirt? Or perhaps you spilled some coffee on yourself before you went climbing? You can easily fix that problem with a little bit of ACTIVE detergent. Mix the powder with water to create a solution and use it to saturate the problem area on the fabric. Allow it to soak through completely before rinsing it out. Check the stain afterward to see if it’s gone. You might have to repeat the steps again if it’s still visible. Otherwise, you can continue washing the item.

Clean the shirts and shorts by massaging the fabric between your fingers. Avoid twisting the garments like a dishcloth; they will stretch and damage the clothing fibers. Instead, you want to use gentle motions. When you’re finished washing the items, put it under the faucet to get rid of the soap suds.

Transfer them to a clean surface and blot them with a towel—that will help to eliminate some of the dampness. Line them dry. As mentioned earlier, you want to avoid using the dryer.

Note: You can wash climbing pants the same way as shorts and shirts.

How to Clean Your Climbing Shoes

It’s not uncommon for climbing shoes to get dirty or stained. Fortunately, they can be cleaned relatively easily. Here are some ways that you can try.

how to clean climbing shoes

Cleaning Your Climbing Shoes with Detergent

Fill a large bucket or tub with lukewarm water. This temperature works best as it will help to loosen debris such as dirt and dust. Do not use hot water as it can damage the sole material.

Add in half a scoop of ACTIVE detergent to the water and mix—you should get a soapy mixture. Avoid using plain water; that will not be enough to get rid of the dirt and sweat. Once you’ve done that, take a soft cleaning brush and use it to remove any debris that’s on the surface of your shoe. You might also want to tap your shoes upside down a few times to get rid of particles on the inside.

From there, scrub the outside of the shoe with the small brush—you want to clean the tongue and upper. Be as gentle as possible; the last thing you’d want would be to tear or fray the materials. As far as the sole goes, you can dip the bottoms of the shoes in water to loosen the dirt.

The inside of your shoes also needs to be cleaned. Gently scrub the interior with the brush—you might have to use your fingers for hard-to-reach areas. From there, you want to rinse out the shoes with clean water.

The last step is to let them dry. Shake the excess water out of the shoes and put them in a well-ventilated area out of direct heat or sunlight. You can stuff them with newspaper to get rid of some of the moisture. Do not wear them until they are thoroughly dry.

Are Climbing Shoes Machine Washable?

Some are, some aren’t. As a general rule, climbing shoes with synthetic materials can be put in the washer.  With that said, you should always make sure by checking the care label inside the shoe.

For those that are machine washable, here’s how to wash them.

Start by removing the shoelaces—you can get them cleaner if you wash them separately. Once you’ve done that put your climbing shoes in the machine. It might be a good idea to put them in a net laundry bag as that will keep them together. Add a few towels so that the shoes will not be thrown around in the washer.

Pour in half a scoop of ACTIVE detergent (that should be enough if you’re just washing the shoes) into the washing machine. Select a gentle cycle and wash the shoes with cold water. Do not use bleach.

Pro-tip: Are your climbing shoes stinky? You can neutralize the odor with a bit of baking soda. Simply sprinkle a small amount into the washer.

Remove them from the machine once you’ve let them run through the wash cycle. Soak up some of the excess water with a clean towel and let them air dry. Do not put them in a hot dryer; the heat will cause the sole material to break down, which could be unsafe when you’re climbing.

Best Way to Clean Climbing Headwear

Some people like to wear head wear when they’re climbing. Does that describe you? If so, don’t forget to clean them as well!

cleaning climbing headgear

Assuming that you’re wearing some sort of bandana (e.g. Buff’s headwear), the best way would probably be to wash them by hand. Fill the sink (or a bucket) with lukewarm water and add in half a scoop of ACTIVE detergent. Put your headgear in once you’ve agitated the liquid and you can see bubbles.

Let it soak for 15 to 20 minutes—that should be enough for the detergent to dislodge and dissolve any sweat, oil, or dirt. Swirl the headgear around a few times in the detergent mixture before picking it up. Rinse out the soap with clean water and hang it up to dry. Avoid using the heat of the dryer.

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