How To Clean Your Motorcycle Helmet Like A Pro

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It’s a fact of life that after riding hundreds of miles, particularly in hot weather, your crash helmet is going to start smelling like a badger’s armpit. On the outside it’s also going to be covered in road grime, squished bugs and road grime. Here’s how to clean your motorcycle helmet.

If you ride a lot it doesn’t take long for your helmet to develop some interesting odors on the inside, mostly from sweat and oil from your hair and skin. There are some people who claim they don’t mind the smell or even notice it, but for those of you that really want to keep your helmet in good condition and smelling good an occasional wash is a great idea. Not only do you get to make your helmet look nearly like new again, you also get a chance to check it over properly and ensure that everything is in full working order.

Cleaning the inside
Starting with the inside of a helmet, you’re going to be faced with two options – removable liner and non-removable liner. The first is by far the easier to work with. Pull out all of the liner, including the cheek pads. They are all held in place with Velcro or pop studs and, with a sharp tug you should be able to get them out.

You can now wash the liners by hand in the kitchen sink using a mild cleaner. We recommend using Johnson’s Baby Shampoo for this. Any residue left over after rinsing won’t irritate your skin and it’s gentle enough that it won’t degrade the fabric or Velcro — vital if you’re washing regularly. Once you have washed them give them a good rinse and hang them out to dry naturally.

Alternatively you can take an even easier route and put the helmet liners in the washing machine. You’ll need a net washing bag to put them in and choose the gentle/delicate cycle — no hotter than 30 degrees — and using regular laundry detergent run them through the washer. Once finished, hang them out to air dry. Never put liners in the dryer or use heat as this will affect their structural integrity and can cause them to shrink. Don’t put the liner pieces back into the helmet until they’re 100 percent dry.

Under the removable liners you will also find the fixed EPS impact liners that make up the inner shell of the helmet and absorb the energy of an impact These can’t be removed and should be treated to just a gentle wipe over with a damp cloth or unscented(!) baby wipe.

For non-removable linings in a crash helmet you need a different approach. Take off all parts such as the visor and any parts that move or can be removed easily.

Next, fill a bucket (or a plastic tub), which is big enough to accommodate your helmet, with lukewarm water and a mild cleaner. Again Johnson’s Baby Shampoo is a good solution. Agitate the water in the bucket or tub until you have got it nice and frothy.

Take the bucket and the helmet to the shower. Rinse the helmet inside and out under lukewarm water in the shower (to get the initial grime off) and then place it bottom down in the bucket. Let it soak there for a few minutes (it’ll help clean up the outside as well) and then turn the helmet upside down in the bucket so you have access to the inside.

Using your finger rub the soapy water into the liner. Be gentle, but firm when doing this and agitate the material to get the ‘head dirt’ out of the liner. This should take a couple of minutes and you’ll be surprised at how much crap comes out of the liner.

Once you’ve got the liner looking clean again, rinse it under the shower in warm water making sure you’ve got rid of all the soap suds.

Put the helmet on a flat, well-aired surface and let it dry naturally. Don’t use a hairdryer to speed up the process, as you don’t want to damage the helmet or liner. But you can place the helmet in front of a regular electric fan to get it really dry reasonably quickly.

Cleaning the outside
To get the outside of your helmet (and this applies to helmets with removable and non-removable liners) looking as good as possible again you’re going to need a kitchen sink full of soapy water (washing up detergent is fine), a couple of micro fiber cloth and a soft bristle toothbrush.

If you have a ton of bugs on the visor and on the outer skin of the helmet soak some paper kitchen towel in warm water and place on the helmet. Leave for a few minutes to soak and then remove it

This will help to lift the road grime and bug carcasses off your helmet without having to scrub, which can damage and scratch the paint or the visor.

Remove any external parts (visor and outer plastic vents if it’s possible) and wipe the entire helmet over with a damp, soapy micro fiber cloth. Gently wipe, do not rub too hard as this can cause scratches to the finish. For really difficult areas, such as the mounting points for the visor use a soft bristle toothbrush to gently lift away dirt and grime.

Then, with another microfiber cloth and using just clean lukewarm water wipe the entire helmet over. You’ll be surprised how good your helmet can look in a matter of minutes.

Wash the visor separately from the helmet. Use exactly the same process as you have done with the helmet but pay particular attention and do not rub it too hard as this can also scratch it. For really tough marks leave the visor to soak for several minutes in warm soapy water before wiping down with a cloth.

To dry the helmet, replace all the parts you took off it and leave in a well-ventilated area. Never use a heat source (a hair dryer for example) to speed up the process. To help get your helmet really dry, place it in front of a fan with the visor up. This will allow air to circulate around and in the helmet and dry it out really well.

If your helmet has a gloss finish, you can wax it and then buff it to make it shine but check with the manufacturer care instructions that came with the helmet to ensure the type of finish you apply does not damage the outer skin. Never use wax on a matt-finished helmet, as it will become shiny.

In total ,this entire cleaning process should take about 15-20 minutes to actually wash your helmet and then several hours to let it dry. We cannot promise that it will look brand new but your helmet will be whole lot cleaner and for one thing it won’t smell quite as bad as it did before.

Know any methods that work better than those described above, what tips and tricks do you use to clean your helmet? If you even clean it, that is.

  • KevinB

    Plexus

    • ColoradoS14

      I can second this times 1000, I spray my whole helmet down with Plexus and wipe it down with a quality microfiber towel before every ride. I take the visor off and get that inside and out as well. I never use force to remove bugs, if they are really stuck on there I will moisten a paper towel with warm water and drape it on the bugs for a few minutes to soften them and then they come right off. I wax my helmet a couple times a year with a good carnauba, makes it look amazing and stuff sticks less making cleanup much easier.

    • Piglet2010

      When I come home from a ride with a bug splattered or grimy lid, I set it down in the driveway, spray it with Plexus, let sit a few minutes, then wash off with the garden hose. Pat mostly dry with a towel, spray again with Plexus, and wipe with a micro-fiber cloth.

      Removable pads go in the washing machine on “Hand Wash” setting, then in front of a fan to dry.

  • Lee Scuppers

    My 30 degree water turned out to be a solid. Could you recommend a source for European water? Thanks!

    • worker88

      Kerb your enthusiasm.

  • mikki sixx

    I commented this before, but it really helps. Dryer sheets in the helmet really helps the funk from becoming too overwhelming inside that thing by masking them with a less offensive [arguably] scent.

    • Randy Singer

      Be incredibly careful with dryer sheets. I learned the hard way that the chemicals in them cause a very nasty allergic reaction in a surprising number of people. When you go to a dermatologist with persistent nasty itchy bumps of indeterminate cause, the first thing that they ask is if you have been using dryer sheets.

      http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/america-asks-10/dirty-dozen

  • ghaash

    Works like a champ however all my motorcycle gear now smells like baby shampoo…

  • NeolaWarfield

    After a couple of years my helmet was just too funky smelling to wear any more. I tried several gentle ways of cleaning it that helped but didn’t completely work. I got to the point where I tried washing my helmet completely submerged in water with shampoo. It helped greatly but some of the funk was still there and left the liner well worn. I gave up and bought a new helmet with a removable liner.

  • nick2ny

    You guys are all nasty! White-knuckle tension equals sweaty face, salty helmet straps and grody pads.

  • Toly

    Luv the pic,,, very homo-erotic :))))

  • Martin

    Post ride: Pledge for the exterior and visor. A cloth bag full of cedar for the interior. When the snow hits, the liner gets pulled and washed as described in the article.

  • Chris Cope

    Baby wipes, yo. That’s the way I roll.

  • BritKit

    These things do the job on general visor cack:

  • Braam Nel

    Anyone clean a Ruby Castel before? I just don’t imagine taking it into the shower is going to be a good idea as it’s all leather and alacantra. The liner does not seem removable. Website says wipe with soapy cloth