How To Clean Your Roller Derby Pads and Make Your Computer Less Gross

Image for article titled How To Clean Your Roller Derby Pads and Make Your Computer Less Gross

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She'll be here every other week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.


I play roller derby, and therefore wear protective padding... and sweat a lot. I wash my clothes after each practice, but it's widely accepted in derby culture that your pads will reek of a poisonous Frito-scented B.O. no matter how often you wash them (i.e. knees, elbows, wrist guards. You also have padding in your helmet.) Because of that, I've let it go a long while without washing my pads, and now they're straight-up offensive. They're in the washing machine now, on cold with detergent and Borax. They'll still smell bad when I take them out to let them air dry, but maybe a little less.

This is the only way I know how to clean my horrid reeking pads. But you seem to be able to figure out the best way to clean things, and I'm hoping you can tell me how and how often I should wash these puppies. Based on web research, I'm guessing they're made mostly from nylon and neoprene, filled with foam, covered with riveted-on plastic caps and fastened with Velcro. It is imperative that the Velcro stay sticky for as long as possible.

I will be happy to tell you how and how often to wash pads, for sure! And actually, I love the way you asked the question because it lets me frame the answer in a way that will (hopefully!) be useful to people with different attitudes when it comes to the smell of their gear. Some people wear their stinky pads with pride, and that's cool! But even those people are pretty likely to get to a point where the smell is overwhelming, even for them.

Given that, it's important to acknowledge that there are stages of pad funk, which for the purposes of today's exercise I'll arbitrarily name and define as Stage 1: Odor Of Which One Can Be Proud; Stage 2: Odor Which Offends Basic Human Decency; and Stage 3: Lucifer's Jockstrap.

When you find yourself in Stage 1: Odor Of Which One Can Be Proud, the one thing I want you to do is to hang your pads after use. For this purpose you'll need a good drying rack. I like this round-up of drying racks from Apartment Therapy because it presents several different styles, which will help you choose one that best fits in your space, if fitting things into your space is an issue for you. I especially like this model, by Real Simple for Bed Bath & Beyond, because all those little clippies seem like they'd be useful for hanging the pads.

The reason I want you to do this is that pads get super extra funky when they're not given a chance to dry and air out. At the very (very, very) least take them out of their bag and let them air dry on the floor.


A few other things to consider during Stage 1: get a spray bottle and some very cheap vodka. Fill the spray bottle with the vodka. Spritz the pads down with a light misting of vodka and leave them to have a wicked fun party. Vodka is an odor killer. Seriously! Isn't that great and delightful and weird? If, for whatever reason, this doesn't delight you in the way that it delights me you can perform the same action with the same results using a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. The vinegar smell will dissipate, so don't worry about your pads smelling like salad dressing. You could also hit those pads with a few sprays of Lysol, which will kill the lingering bacteria that's causing those pads to stink up the joint. (The one item you won't want to Lysol is your helmet, because when you start sweating any lingering Lysol residue will mix with the sweat and get into your eyes, which YIKES!)

When you find yourself in Stage 2: Odor Which Offends Basic Human Decency it's time to wash the pads. When you're in this stage, you can go ahead and wash the pads in the tub. (If you have your own machine at home I hate you and it's easier to always machine wash them you can do that; we're going to get to those instructions, and a brief discussion on why machine washing isn't part of my Phase 2 directive, when we talk about Phase 3 — so stay tuned.)


This is, ideally, a thing that should happen every week. But also this is a thing that's really up to you in terms of how much time you're willing to put into keeping your gear from reeking and how proud you are of the pad funk. The thing about washing them regularly — even if "regularly" means once a month rather than once a week — is that it's going to keep Stage 3 at bay. And believe me, when Stage 3 rolls around (OH NO THAT WAS A TERRIBLE JOKE BUT I COULDN'T HELP IT), you're going to pay for those shortcuts you took.

Right, so! To wash those pads up in the tub you're going to need about ¼ cup of laundry detergent and about ½ cup of either color safe bleach or white vinegar. Here I actually prefer white vinegar, which has antibacterial properties and is a great odor remover, but doesn't cause as much harm to our Great Green Earth (or, let's be honest, your precious hands) as does the color safe bleach. But! I like to offer you choices in life, because we're all grown-ups here, with free will.


Once you've picked your products, go on and fill your tub about halfway up with hot water. About as hot as you can stand! Then add your detergent and color safe bleach or vinegar, swirl those things around to get 'em mixed up real nice, then toss in your pads. You'll need to hold them down to fully saturate them. Then just kind of swirl things around for a few minutes; the agitation will help to release a lot of the built up oil, sweat and dirt that the pads are holding in. Then just let those pads hang around enjoying nice bubble bath for 30 or so minutes.

When they're done swimming in the bubbles, drain the tub and rinse each pad with clean running water, sort of smooshing them to release the cleaning solution. Then roll 'em all up in a towel to press out as much water as you can and hang 'em on your drying rack.


And when the inevitable happens and you find yourself in Stage 3: Lucifer's Jockstrap it's time to bring in the Machines. You may have already been using your washing machine, as in the case of this LW, which is fine! But it bears noting that there are varying opinions as to the efficacy of washing pads in the washing machine. Well. Let me rephrase that: the washing machine will definitely get those pads clean, so I suppose the efficacy is really not in question, but there are a couple of drawbacks to machine washing protective pads. The first is that the Velcro can get filled up with lint, which means it won't Velc to its Ro. And we don't want your pads flying off you while you fly around the derby track. The other is that the pads can get banged around too much, and could potentially fall apart.

But using the machine to wash your pads is convenient, and it will get the funk out of them in a more righteous way than hand washing will, just by the sheer force of the agitation the washer will administer. So if you go that route, here are a few things to do to help protect the pads and also to get as much of the stench out as possible.


(1) Put the pads in a large mesh bag, which will offer them extra protection (it's funny to think of protecting your protective gear, but the world is a funny old place, isn't it?);

(2) Strap the Velcro down as tight as you can get it;

(3) Use the gentlest cycle the machine offers;

(4) Use the hottest water setting;

(5) In addition to Borax and laundry detergent, add a half to a full cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle for optimal funk getting outting;

(6) Pre-soak the pads in white vinegar prior to laundering;

(7) Wash them more than once (this is especially true when you find your pads are in crisis-mode, stink-wise);

(8) Consider the use of a sports-specific laundry detergent like WIN, Atsko Sport Wash or Penguin Sport Wash.


I am a Gross Blogger.

I'm writing, Googling, reading, blogging, Netflixing, Tweeting, and variations on those themes upwards of 16 hours a day, often in combination with eating, drinking, sitting in strange places, working on planes, working in bed, working in the kitchen, etc., etc., etc. I have a 13 inch Macbook Pro that belongs to my place of business, and it has borne the brunt of my use and abuse. Some sloppy take-out Chinese worked its way into my trackpad, cracking it, so now I'm using an external mouse. The body of the computer seems preternaturally dirty — grimy and gross and crumbs in the fold between screen and keyboard, and ick, my cat tried to chew off a key.


It's gross! There's junk between the keys! What do I do? What can I clean it with that won't make it combust into a million sparks in my hands? I love my laptop, but I have betrayed it.

I love my laptop too! Do you cuddle yours in bed sometimes while watching old episodes of The Sopranos and Googling "Carmela's baked ziti recipe"? (Here you go. Abbondanza!)


So right, there are basically two things you need to keep a computer clean: (1) canned air and (2) a tech wipe or a liquid cleaner coupled with a cloth. So pretty simple stuff! But the order in which you use them is important, so we'll go into a little more detail.

The canned air you'll use first to get all the crumbs and such out of your keyboard. It will be delightfully horrifying! It's also good to perform this operation, if possible, on a flat surface that can easily be wiped free of all those crumbs and such. Because they will be blown everywhere! Including onto your monitor, which is why we de-crumb first, then de-streak and de-fur and de-Chinese take-out and de-etc. second.


So once the debris is gone, you'll want to clean the keyboard, monitor and exterior of the machine so it's free of germs and unsightly grime. There are two main types of products to know about for this purpose: liquids and wipes. In the liquid category are spray products designed for cleaning computers like Klear Screen or regular old isopropyl alcohol (that's the rubbing stuff), which works just as well and will save you a few bucks. Another thing you may already have, that will totally work, is non-acetone nail varnish remover. Whichever way you go, however, you'll need a microfiber cloth or chamois on which to put the cleaning solution — you don't want to spray it directly onto the machine, nor do you want to use paper towels or other paper products, no matter how soft and gentle they may be, because they can cause scratching — and with which to wipe the computer down. Q-Tips are also great to aid cleaning in between keys.

For cleaning on the go, tech wipes are a great thing to know about. Windex makes some, as does the aforementioned Klear Screen; to use them you'll just wipe down the monitor, keyboard, and exterior then toss the thing out. (The wipe, not the computer.) Oh also! A quick note on Windex: the spray glass cleaner stuff? Can be used to clean your computer but it's not the best idea in the world (trans.: this is me, officially not recommending it) because that product contains ammonia which, over time, can lead to cracks in some of the plastic parts of your 'putey. So now you know that!


If there's still a ton of residual grime, our pals at Lifehacker love Magic Erasers for getting scuffs and stains up off your computer.

Jolie Kerr is the author of the upcoming book My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha (Plume, Spring 2014); more cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found on Twitter, Kinja, and Tumblr.


Squalor appears on Jezebel and Deadspin on alternating weeks.



Please satisfy my curiosity: Is not owning a washing machine really common in the US? It seems it because people on romantic comedies are always flirting in laundromats but I am still surprised to see from this post that is it assumed people won't have them. Why don't many people own them? Is it the cost of the machines or is it space?

My research suggest that there are a handful of laundromats in New Zealand, but I don't recall ever seeing one. The latest stats I have are that in 1966 only 12% of NZ households didn't have one. I assume that number is smaller now.

NZ isn't richer than the US, though we are much nicer to our poorest people so mabye it is a money thing (like it you didn't have a washing machine due to lack of money the government would help you hire or buy one).