If you're like most people, you like to have knees that are in working order. CrossFit fans know what it's like to leave the workout with grubby, mat-stained knees. And all those CrossFit burpees and lunges can wreak havoc on our poor knees. Let me state the obvious by saying that knee sleeves are important for CrossFit athletes who care about their knee health. In fact, they are an essential item on your CrossFit gear list. And while we all take care of our bodies we sometimes forget about our equipment. Knee sleeves collect sweat, dirt, and anything else that comes in the way. As a result, they can harbour bugs and they can stink, big time. It’s time to learn how to wash your knee sleeves properly, folks. Need help? Here's how to do it.
Use the Washer, stupid!
I’ve seen a lot of CrossFit athletes concerned about ruining their expensive knee sleeves in the washing machine. However, I can comfortably say that nearly all the knee sleeves currently on the market are machine-washable. And washing them using this method won't affect their “compression” qualities, as long as you follow the guidelines.
Step 1: Check the Label
If you still want to make sure, simply check the product label. You should see whether it’s possible to machine wash this product.
You’ll probably find other important details like the maximum water temperature, best cycle setting, and overall drying instructions.
Step 2: Turn Them Inside Out
Since most of the sweat is typically found on the inside of your knee sleeves, you should always wash them inside out. This way, the detergent will be able to reach the tiniest spaces and clean them well.
Step 3: Start the Cycle
If the label doesn’t specify a cycle, go for the gentle one. Aggressive cycles can mess up the rubber and latex inside your sleeves.
Moreover, it’s better to use cold water because hot water can expand the fibers permanently.
Washing with water alone won’t be useful. Use a mild detergent to get rid of any bacteria or mold. It’s better to check the detergent specifications to be certain that it won’t harm the fibers of your best CrossFit sleeves.
Step 4: Gently Squeeze the Sleeves
You won’t be able to use a dryer to avoid heat-related damage. Therefore, to dry the sleeves faster, gently squeeze out their water until they don’t drip anymore.
By squeezing I mean firm grasping only. Never wring or twist them as this can cause the sleeves to lose their compression abilities.
Step 5: Air Dry
Now your clean knee sleeves are ready to sit and enjoy a peaceful breeze before going back in your gym bag.
Sunlight might distort your knee sleeves. So it’s better to place them in a shaded, well-ventilated area.
You don’t need to hang them on a rope. In fact, the heavy water weight might permanently stretch the fibers.
Go on with your normal life and let them air dry for at least 12 hours to ensure that no moisture remains. In fact, using them with lurking moisture might accelerate bacterial growth.
Use Your Mighty Hands
If the label advised against using a washer to clean your knee sleeves, stick to their instructions. They made the product and they know what exactly ruins it.
After all, who needs a machine when you have those strong arms, wrists, and legs! The old-fashioned method is still one of the safest and cheapest.
Step 1: Fill the Bowl
Pick a bowl in which your gear fits comfortably without folding. Fill with enough cold water to fully cover the sleeves. Then, add a mild detergent and some white vinegar (less than 100ml is fine). White vinegar contains acetic acid which helps soften knee sleeves and kill off those nasty odors. You can also add a small amount of dish soap (note: the dish soap can also substitute for the detergent if you prefer, just add a bit more).
Step 2: Stir, Stir, Stir
Do you know the “stir the pot” exercise? Well, it’s time to do it in real life! Thoroughly stir the water with a spoon until no undissolved detergent remains.
Otherwise, these undissolved particles might get stuck between the fibers and irritate your legs during the workout.
Step 3: Soak, Squeeze, Repeat
Now it’s time for the actual workout. It’s all up to you to deliver water and detergent to every inch of your knee sleeves.
Gently shake the knee sleeves inside the water for optimal penetration. Then, squeeze the water by firmly grasping tightly. Never wring or twist them to avoid distortion. Afterward, soak them again in the water. Then repeat the process for 15 minutes.
Step 4: Rinse
You have two options. You can use the bowl to soak and squeeze the sleeves until no soap comes out. But if you own a large colander, place the sleeves inside it and spray water over with a hose until it comes out 100% clear.
And again, any residual detergent will give you a hard time working out. So stay especially patient with this step.
Step 5: Squeeze and Air Dry
Give your knee sleeves the last squeeze to prep them for a 12-hour drying session in the open air. Just like the washing machine method, place them in a shaded area without hanging.
Whatever method you choose to was your knee sleeves, avoid using hot water or any other heat source to prevent damage to the product fabric.
As a bonus note, don’t just shove your knee sleeves in the gym bag after your workout. This moist environment is the best place for bacteria and mold to thrive.
In fact, this is the leading cause of bad odor. Instead, turn the compression sleeves inside out and let them dry before taking them home.
Now go on and show the world how strong you can get in those clean sleeves!
CrossFit fan. Ex-personal trainer, triathlete, and cross-country mountain biker. Masters Competitive CrossFit athlete. Writer and blogger.