Motorcycle helmets have a specific bad odor when they get too dirty. Washing the helmet on a regular basis is crucial for a safe and enjoyable ride. Riders that hit the road every day maintain a clean helmet. Others, wait for the helmet smell to hit first. I’m guessing you noticed the odor, so you want to learn how to wash it. That’s what we’ll be doing here, a guide on how to wash a motorcycle helmet.
- Remove helmet liner and wash separately
- Soak the exterior with a warm wet towel
- Clean the exterior
- Clean air vents
- Clean Faceshield and sun-shield
That’s a quick summary of what you need to do. But there’s a lot more to it. Believe me, you want to read this thoroughly. Do the research before you do the work. One mix up with the detergents and you’ll be left with a damaged helmet. Let’s start.
You will be happy to hear that you won’t need any cleaning solutions specifically made for motorcycles. Quite the opposite, most of the cleaning gear needed, you already have in your home. The gear you’re missing is inexpensive. Also, you will be using the gear for quite some time.
- Soft Cloth/Soft Towel/Microfiber Cloth
Any of these will do, as long as the material is soft and won’t cause any scratches. I recommend microfiber cloths, I found these to be most effective. Whatever you’ll be using, make sure you have a couple of them on hand, and make sure they are clean.
- Mild Detergent/Shampoo
You’ll be using this to wash the inner lining. The most popular choice is baby shampoo. The reason being, baby shampoo is a neutral detergent and won’t damage the lining. You can choose other solutions too, make sure there’s no petroleum in it.
- Warm Water & Bucket
- Air Compressor
The easiest way to clean the air vents is to blow some air. This is not necessary though, not everyone has a compressor on hand.
The toothbrush is effective in cleaning some unreachable areas. This is also optional. If you decide to get one, it doesn’t have to be new, just make sure the brush is soft.
1. Dissasemble The Helmet
I’ve seen some lazy people that just soak the whole helmet in water and then just wipe it off. That’s not that smart though. The cheek pads and the inner lining can’t be scrubbed nor washed only with water. The interior absorbed a lot of sweat, washing it only with water will make the smell worse.
So, to avoid this, and to ensure an extra clean helmet, you need to this properly. That means taking out the helmet liner and cheek pads before you do anything. If your helmet model has any electronic accessories attached to it, remove that too. You’ll be cleaning this separately.
Take extra care while removing the interior though. You can easily damage the internal liner while trying to take it out. The liner is most likely attached by snaps or hooks, magnets are an option too. Most helmet manufacturers explain how to do this in the manual. So, just check the manual for instructions.
2. Soak The Exterior
Your helmet exteriors are probably covered in dirt. Normally, you would get rid of this just by wiping it with a soap solution and a microfiber rag. The problem is that bugs and caked-on dirt won’t come off with wiping. You need to scrub and we already said that scrubbing can damage the coating.
So, how do we clean the caked-on dirt? Well, since we got rid of the lining, soaking the helmet won’t be troublesome. Warm-up a bowl of water, and dip a soft cloth in the warm water. You don’t want the rag to be dripping wet. Place the moist cloth over the helmet exteriors so it will fully cover it. Let the cloth sit like that for 3-5 minutes.
The heat will loosen up some of that dirt. When the time comes to clean the exterior properly, you won’t have to scrub. You can repeat this process a couple of times. When you’re satisfied, you can move on.
3. Wash The Removable Liners With A Mild Detergent
Now, this is the complicated part for most people. I find it quite easy to do though. You just have to be gentle and use the right solutions. Here’s how to do it.
- Fill up a bucket with warm water.
- Add a mild detergent to the water, preferably baby shampoo.
- Dip the liners in the bucket and gently wash like you wash clothes by hand.
- Let the liners dry
A couple of things to keep in mind here. First of all, you don’t want to be too hard on the liner. It’s not recommended to use a washing machine. Laundry detergent may not be that effective. If your helmet has removable cheek pads, wash those too. Don’t reassemble the liners until completely dry. The preferred method is air drying, exposure to direct sunlight can also damage the helmet.
4. Wipe Exterior
If you did Step 2 right, your helmet should be ready for the finishing touches. Here, you’ll be cleaning the exterior to a point where it’s shining. A water and soap solution will do. You’ll need to take out the helmet visor first.
Start by dipping a microfiber towel in lukewarm water. Gently wipe off all the leftover dirt. This should leave you with a pretty clean helmet. If you are not satisfied with the level of cleanness, use soapy water instead. Also, for areas where the rag is ineffective, use the toothbrush.
Then, take a dry cloth, and wipe over the whole helmet. Remove any excess water and water spots. Once you’re done, your helmet should be ready. Now, we can move on to the shields.
5. Clean The Air Vents
Since cleaning the vents is not that easy to do, you can skip this part. Maybe you don’t even have to clean the vents. Check if there’s a piece of dirt stuck in one of the vents. If the vents are clear, you don’t have to do anything.
The best way to remove the plugged vents is by blowing air into them. Use an air compressor to do this. Few quick bursts of air should do the trick.
6. Clean The Faceshield & Sun-Shield
Now, the finishing touches. After this step, you’re practically done with the washing process. Remove the faceshield, spray it with water and wipe it with a soft dry cloth. You don’t want to damage the glass here, so I recommend a microfiber rag. Don’t use any detergents here, the shield may have lenses or UV protection.
If your visor has removable lenses, first remove the lenses. If you don’t do this you won’t be able to clean the space between the lens and the shield. Do the same thing for the internal sun shield if your helmet has one.
7. Put Everything Back Together Once Dried Completely
Once you’re done, you’ll want to put the helmet back together. Don’t leave the pieces to sit there, dust will cover them, and the effort will be for nothing. I’m guessing some of you are doing this to prepare for the riding season, so get your helmet ready.
- Wear a bandana underneath the helmet to protect the lining from sweat. No matter how much you clean it, the liners will get damaged from all the body oils and sweat. Wearing a bandana is the protective step you can take. Not to mention, some helmets don’t have removable liners. So, the bandana is a must.
- Use 2 helmets. Switching between two helmets is a smart idea too. You can separate them into a dirty road helmet, and a city helmet.
- Air-dry the helmet after a sweaty ride. Some people have the bad habit of taking the helmet off the head and placing it somewhere where it can air-dry. That’s how you get a bad odor. To prevent this, always let the helmet air dry.
- Add wax coating to the shell. If you add wax, next time you’ll be cleaning the hard-to-get-rid-of-dirt, you can scrub without damaging the shell.
- Don’t let dirt get stuck. If you’re able to notice some bugs and dirt before it gets stuck, clean it then. Of course, to do this, you’ll need to have a rag on you while you’re driving.
Related Questions And Other FAQs
Can I Use Windex On My Motorcycle Helmet
Windex won’t damage the visor nor the coating of the helmet. The towel or rag you’re using is more important. As long as the material is soft, you’re fine.
Can Wearing Helmet Cause Hair Loss
Although very rare, traction alopecia is a real thing. It’s a condition where you lose hair because of the friction you caused on your head. The helmet causes friction between the scalp and the hair roots, which leads to hair loss. it’s worth noting that this happens only if you have a tight helmet and you wear it too much.
Can You Machine Wash Helmet Liners
Helmet liners can be cleaned in a washing machine, only if there is a Gentle Wash setting. Be careful with the laundry detergent.
Nothing more to add here. Follow this guide to clean your helmet. Read the steps carefully. You can go wrong only by using an abrasive cloth or by using some strong solution. Be careful not to damage anything like the visor mechanism, the lenses, and the padding. Improper maintenance is how you ruin a helmet.