How to clean your helmet properly

Posted: 15 Sep 2013

When was the last time you cleaned your crash helmet? No, not the outside, the inside. The part that sits next to your skin and absorbs all the sweat. Have you ever removed the lining from your lid and given it a good clean? The answer is probably not as most of us tend to avoid this task. Why? Fear of not being able to put it back together is one factor, but also general laziness is certainly to blame. Ideally you should thoroughly clean the lining in your lid at least once a year. Go on, stick your nose in it and take a whiff, does yours smell like something is decomposing in there? Well it may very well be, especially if you stick your gloves in there when you are off the bike. Ok, so how do you do it?

Stage 1: Dissection

Take the inner out of your helmet if you can

Taking careful note of where everything goes, remove as many of the external components as possible. Don’t remove anything that is stuck in place, but if it can be unscrewed then take it off and store it somewhere safe.

Now remove the internal lining, again noting where it came from. If your lid doesn’t have a removable lining then don’t worry, it’s not an issue. Sometimes areas such as the cheek pads have a lining over a foam pad, this can also be removed. Ok, now your lid is in pieces it’s time to get washing.

Stage 2: The clean

Clean it

Lay a towel down in the bath and rest the lid on it. Not only will this protect the helmet, it will also prevent any damage to the bath. Using a shower head, ensure the water is luke warm and not hot and the pressure isn’t too high and then start soaking the lid. Don’t worry about getting it wet, helmets are designed to get damp. Soak any lining that can’t be removed and gently massage the water in. Don’t press too hard as you don’t want to dent or damage the polystyrene impact absorption layer, but ensure everything is nice and wet. Now massage some PH-neutral shampoo (baby shampoo is perfect) into the lining and again work it around to get the grime out. Clean everything including the chin strap and neck lining as these are often really stinky. Once you are happy, rinse the helmet out by massaging luke warm water into the lining again and then wipe a flannel or damp cloth over the outer shell to remove any bugs. Water softens dead flies so by now they should fall off with minimal hassle. Repeat this cleaning process with any lining components that you managed to remove and while it is off give your visor a good clean with the flannel. If it has a Pin-lock or similar system fitted then remove this before you clean it. Job done, now it’s time to dry.

Stage 3: Drying

Leave it out to dry

Never, ever, be tempted to dry a helmet using a hair dryer. The hot air from such a device could melt the protective polystyrene layer, rendering the helmet useless. Place the helmet on a dry towel and prop it up slightly to allow the air to circulate. Now leave it to dry naturally. This may take a few days, so you can put it in a warm room, but don’t stick it in a hot location like near a radiator or on a boiler. If you have a desk fan then this is the perfect tool to blow a steady stream of air through the lid to aid drying. In hot weather you can leave the lid outside, but avoid leaving it in direct sunlight. After a few days the lining should be nice and dry, check it thoroughly for dryness and then re-assemble the helmet.

Stage 4: Reassembly

This can be trick as it’s always easier to take apart than put back together. But take your time, read your owner’s manual (you have still got it, haven’t you?) and if you get really stuck then your local bike shop should be able to assist. Although a less embarrassing source of help is the internet. Once back together, check the lining sits correctly and the visor seals nicely, this can need adjusting slightly after the helmet has been dismantled. All sorted? Now go for a ride and make it all sweaty again!

Helmet care: BikeSocial's tips for keeping your lid looking good and functioning perfectly

  1. Never put your gloves in your lid. Look at the front of your bike, see all those dead flies, they will also be on your gloves. You are now going to put them in your lid, that’s disgusting…
  2. Use soapy water to clean the outer shell. Furniture polish can get trapped in the nooks and crannies, potentially causing damage to the shell. Just use warm water with a touch of washing-up liquid or a specialist helmet cleaner.
  3. To remove stubborn dried on flies, soak some kitchen towel in water and then leave it on the helmet for a few minutes. This will make their bodies soften up so you can easily wipe them way.
  4. Protect your helmet. When not in use it is always best to leave the helmet in its bag, just to be safe. And if you do store it on a shelf, ensure it is tucked away and can’t be accidentally pulled off and allowed to fall to the floor.
  5. Clean the inside and outside of the visor by removing it from the lid. You will be amazed how much scum gathers on the inside!
  6. Silicon the visor mechanism. All new lids come with a small dispenser of silicon gel, use this sparingly to keep the visor’s action nice and smooth.
  7. Don’t assume the visor has been aligned properly, check it and if necessary alter the alignment to stop any air getting in.
  8. If you wear a dark visor, always pack a clear one in your bag. You never know if you will get caught out and be forced to return later than you have anticipated.
  9. Don’t put a damp helmet away. Leave it upturned so the sweat can dry naturally.
  10. Don’t hang your helmet on your bike’s mirror or place it balanced on the seat, someday it will fall off and that’s really annoying, not to mention expensive.