Motorcycle helmets, if not cleaned for a long time, will start smelling due to oil and sweat deposits. Not just the smell, the dirt deposits will also come in contact with your hair and scalp, and affect you overtime as you wear the helmet more and more.
So, it is essential for you to clean the helmet regularly in order to get rid of this sweat. This post details out the step-by-step procedure you can follow to clean up your helmet. Before that, here are the prerequisites.
Before starting with the cleaning process, these are the items you need and should keep in within an arm’s reach before starting. The prerequisite items are:
- That smelly Helmet (duh!)
- Tissue paper
- Screw driver
- Toothbrush / Cotton swab
- Hair Shampoo
- Water tub
- Warm water
- Cleaning towel
Now, let’s start with the cleaning. Oh, before that, here is a tissue test to know whether your helmet needs cleaning or not.
Time To Know Whether Your Helmet Needs Cleaning
If your helmet smells that’s a big indication you need to clean it. Next time when you park your motorcycle and remove the helmet, check the smell.
To confirm whether it is time to clean your helmet or not, carry out this simple exercise.
Take tissue paper and rub it on the fabric of the comfort liner. Yes, the fabric that comes in contact with your hair every time you put on the helmet.
Once you have rubbed the tissue on the fabric, check the tissue. You will instantly know what to do. If the tissue has too much dirt, it is time for you to clean your helmet.
On another note, if the helmet is more than 5 years old, consider it an expired helmet, and buy a new one. No amount of washing helps here.
Now that we know your helmet needs cleaning, here are the steps you need to follow.
#1 Remove Any Electronic Accessories From The Helmet
First and foremost, remove all the electronic accessories you are using in your helmet.
These accessories can include Bluetooth communicator, microphone, helmet camera, antenna, batteries etc.
#2 Dismantle The Helmet
In the helmet dismantling process, remove the visor first.
Use the screwdriver to detach the visor from the helmet. Then remove other detachable parts like the breath guard from the helmet exterior. Once these are removed, it is time for the inner padding and cheek pads.
Both the cheek pads are easy to remove since they are connected to the helmet via buttons. You need to pull the cheek pads by applying a small amount of force to remove them.
Once the two cheek pads have been removed, go for the clothing liner of the inner padding. The inner liner will usually be made up of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) commonly known as thermocol.
Thankfully, we don’t need to clean the EPS. We just have to remove the clothing/fabric liner covering the EPS. Gently remove the clothing liner from the helmet and do not use too much force here.
Now, we are all set to clean each part of the helmet.
#3 Clean The Outer Shell Covering
This one is easy. The Outer Shell covering hardly requires much maintenance or cleaning. All you need to do is rinse a cleaning towel in warm water and rub the towel on the outer shell. A better way to do is to cover the towel on the exterior and leave it for 5 mins. And then remove it. The towel cloth will remove the dirt from the outer shell material and cleans it up.
You can also use soap water to rinse the towel cloth and then clean the outer cover. However, since the cover does not require any extra care for cleaning, a water rinse should suffice.
The outer cover is cleaned now. You can start cleaning other parts. Or you can paint the helmet’s outer cover if interested. Here is a post explaining how you can paint the helmet.
#4 Tidy Up The Vent Channels
While the wet rag will clean up the surface, the dirt or grease stuck in the vent channels need some extra effort. Use a toothbrush or a cotton swab to clean out the vent channels on the helmet exterior.
If you are using a toothbrush, do not rub too harshly on the vents. Another method to clean the vent channels is to use an air compressor on it. A quick air blast will easily do the trick to tidy up the vent channels.
#5 Prepare For Interior Lining Cleaning
The inner clothing liner and the cheek pads need the most thorough maintenance and cleaning up. So, you need to prepare a cleaning solution before that.
You need a cleaning agent preferably your hair shampoo, a water tub or container, and warm water.
Pour the shampoo to the warm water in the tub/container. Shampoo will suffice for the cleaning since you will use the same for your hair as well. In other words, if it is good for your hair, it is enough for the clothing liner. However, do not use any dish detergent since it is too harsh for the clothing.
How much shampoo to pour in? It completely depends on how dirty the clothing liner. If the tissue test you conducted earlier showed too much dirt on the tissue paper, be generous in your pouring. Also, make sure the water is lukewarm. Don’t go overboard with hot water.
#6 Immerse The Inner Liner In The Water Tub
Once the cleaning solution is ready, dunk the clothing/fabric liner and the cheek pads into the shampoo-water solution. Rub the fabric with your hands and give them a good squeeze to soak in the shampoo and part with the dirt.
Let the liner and cheek pads soak for 20 to 30 minutes in the water solution. Don’t hurry up here. These are the main parts that need thorough wash and tidying up.
If you just wash it for, say, 2 to 5 mins, the smell will still remain and all these efforts might go in vain. So, give the inner liner sufficient time to soak in the shampoo and part with the dirt and oil.
#7 Wash The Clothing With Clean Water
Once the clothing liner and cheek pads are sufficiently soaked in the shampoo solution, take them out from the tub. Now, wash these parts with clean water. You can use the same water tub again by emptying out the shampoo solution and refilling it with clean water. Or, you can simply use the tap or handheld shower to wash them.
Either way, squeeze and rub the fabric gently but thoroughly, to get rid of the shampoo now. Once you have washed them, leave it out for drying.
A natural drying out in the sunlight is a better alternative despite many advising for avoiding sunlight. As for people saying no for sunlight drying, I simply disagree.
The argument against drying in sunlight is that the paint will fade off from the padding. But it makes no sense since the paint on the padding does not have functional attributes. The clothing and padding will work perfectly fine even if the paint fades. Also, you are drying it out in the sunlight for a small period of time. How much paint would you think will fade? Not much.
If you want to speed up the drying process, you can use a fan to blow cool air into the fabric.
#8 Clean Other Detached Parts Using A Cloth
Other detached parts except visor do not need much attention and can be cleaned easily. Use a clean cloth to tidy up these parts. If the accessories do not mind getting some moisture, use a wet cloth immersed in warm water to clean these parts.
However, if the accessories cannot take moisture, especially the electronic components, do not risk it. Simply use a dry cloth to clean them off.
#9 Cleaning The Visor
The visor or the face shield of the helmet can be easily cleaned with a wet cloth immersed in warm water. Just make sure the cloth is clean enough.
A caution note here if you are using a cleaning agent for the face shield. Cleaners that contain petroleum is a big no-no for cleaning the visor.
Most people use window or household cleaner which contains hydrocarbon in them. Don’t put all these damaging efforts in cleaning your visor. A plain lukewarm water will do the trick for you.
#10 Reassemble The Helmet Parts
Now that we have cleaned up all the parts and accessories of the helmet, we just need to reassemble them. Just make sure all the parts are dried up. If not, give them some more time to dry completely.
Once dried up, reassemble them similar and opposite to the way you dismantled these parts and accessories from the helmet.
Start with inner clothing liner and cheek pads. Make sure the cheek pads are in the right order. Manufacturers usually mark them with ‘R’ and ‘L’ labels to indicate right and left pads.
Once the cheek pads are fitted, add the visors and use a screwdriver for tightening. Lastly, reassemble all the accessories and electronic components to the helmet.
How Often Should You Clean Your Helmet?
There is no right answer to how frequent one should clean their helmet. It depends on the usage of the helmet, how much do you sweat, how dusty the roads are etc.
Generally, people advise to clean the helmets once every month. However, I usually clean once in 3 months. And I use them very often, for daily commute to my work. And it has worked out well for me.
So, if you are regular user, we advise a cleaning frequency of once in every 3 months to be sufficient. A better approach is to use the tissue test we discussed earlier to assess how much dirt and oil is accumulated. If you find 6 months is the ideal frequency to clean your helmet, by all means, go for it.
When Should You Replace Your Helmet?
While there is no official expiry date for the helmets, the wear and tear, the overtime usage, and technology obsolescence will decrease the functionality of your helmet overtime.
A general thumb rule is to replace your helmet every 5 years. However, if your helmet is in an excellent condition even after 6 years and you feel there is no need for replacement, that is absolutely okay. At the same time, if your helmet is 2 years old and already has cracks, bolts loosen consistently and the comfort liner smells badly, and you want to replace, that’s fine too.