How to clean and maintain motorcycle gear

As a motorcycle rider, your gear is extremely important as it protects you from the elements and aids in protection during an accident. This motorcycle specific gear comes in many different forms and is expensive to purchase. Because this gear is exposed to the elements and road conditions while riding, it gets wet, dirty, sweaty and smells after short or long term use. Road grime, dirt and body sweat or grease that has built up while riding will end up destroying the membranes and coatings in your gear, regardless of what material its made out of. This used gear needs to be cleaned to keep it fresh and help prolong the life of these expensive items. As a general rule, most motorcycle gear can be wiped down with warm soapy water and a micro-fiber cloth to prevent chemical damage, carefully rinsed with clean water, then left to air-dry in a shady area (no direct sunlight).  Different types of material and motorcycle gear requires different types of cleaning and maintenance procedures.

Textile motorcycle gear – Wash and maintain

Textile motorcycle gear is made with many different materials and usually a combination of these materials. This makes washing textile gear a little more complicated than just throwing it in the wash. Most gear will come with manufactures instructions on the label, so make sure you pay attention to this before throwing the labels away. If its too late for this, its a good idea to handwash your textile gear with a neutral soap.

Some textile gear will go into your washing machine (if the manufacturer says so), just make sure the armour is removed if it can be, liners and any zip on pieces removed and washed separately. Its also a good idea to soak your textiles in water for a good 20-30 mins before the wash just to loosen up the bigger dirt particles. Some washing machines have a gentle wash cycle, delicate wash or something similar, use this cycle if you have it for added security. Only tumble dry or spin cycle if you can turn down the speed of have it set to a gentle cycle, if not air dry only. I would recommend air drying all textile motorcycle gear as dryers can be quite harsh and damage certain materials. When air drying avoid direct sunlight. Do not use fabric softener as this will damage your textiles or stick between the fibres of your gear. If your worried about chemicals damaging your textiles, wash without detergent or use a neutral soap.

Wet weather motorcycle gear maintenance

After getting home from a motorcycle ride out in the rain, your wet weather gear needs to be cleaned and air dry. Mud and all other kinds of grime and oil from the road will be easily flung around while riding out on the rain by your bike or other vehicles around you. So chances are your wet or soaked motorcycle wet weather gear is also dirty and needs a clean as well as a good air dry. This will help to keep your wet weather gear fresh and last longer. As most wet weather motorcycle gear is textiles, cleaning advice is listed above. For rain coatings made from plastic materials a simple hose down or wipe down with some warm soapy water will do the trick. Air dry all wet gear and avoid direct sunlight.

Clean and treat motorcycle leather gear

Motorcycle leather gear will need extra care to keep it well maintained. This gear is expensive and will last a long time if it is taken care of properly. We also want this gear at its best when sliding down the road in an accident. A full clean of your leather gear doesn’t need to be done after every ride, spot cleaning should be done when needed to prevent needing a full clean too often. There are 3 main steps to cleaning your leather gear. This is cleaning the exterior, interior and then treating or conditioning the leather itself.

Exterior -I’d recommend in investing in a leather shampoo to gently clean the outside leather. Many different cleaning products can damage or discolour the leather. A soft cotton cloth or microfibre towel is will do the trick. Apply the leather cleaner to the towel, not the leather itself. Be gentle with while cleaning, scrubbing the leather hard will damage it and remove the oils within the leather. Once cleaned, air dry for a good 24hrs before conditioning. 

Interior – If your leather gear has a removable liner, take it out and throw it in the wash. If not, air dry the gear and use some odour spray like fabreze or similar. Get some shampoo and water in there for really dirty stinky gear. If this doesn’t work, you can apply a de-salter to the inside of the gear, this is made easier if you turn the gear inside out (if possible).

Conditioning – Leather is treated with different oils to keep it fresh and abrasion resistant. Over time these oils dry up and the leather will need to be treated or conditioned to return these oils. Purchase a leather conditioner specific to your gear. Make sure the leather is completely dry then use a soft sponge to evenly apply the conditioner. Only apply the conditioner to the sponge itself, not the leather. Be careful not to overuse as you don’t want to clog up the pours of the leather with too much oil. A leather jacket should only be treated once a year, maybe twice for extreme use.

Other potential motorcycle fabrics

If you have hybrid leather/textile combinations on your motorcycle gear, unfortunately you will need to treat the leather and textile differently meaning hand washing is the only way. Clean the leather as mentioned above and same for the textile. Any material coated in polyurethane will just require a good old wash with soap and water and air dry. Anything coated on oil or wax for protection will need to be washed with clean water only, then the protective coating will need to be re-applied. That is the punishment for purchasing that particular kind of motorcycle gear. Any other random materials used in niche motorcycle gear will have instructions on how to clean the particular material without damaging it on the label when purchased. If you don’t have access to this information, maybe give your local motorcycle shop a call for instructions.

Storage of your motorcycle gear

When not using you gear its a good idea to hang what you can in a dry area inside your house, preferably a closet of some kind. Jackets are best hung on a wide strong coat hanger to help keep the shape. If your putting your gear away for longer term storage do the same thing but add some silica crystals to the pocket of your gear to help keep moisture away. Check on the gear occasionally to make sure no mold or any other nasties is growing on your expensive stuff.

Cleaning and maintaining your motorcycle gear will help prolong its life, keep the protective armour and material healthy for a potential accident and keep it fresh and ready for riding. No matter the material, everything can be cleaned and maintained when armed with the right information.