A riding helmet is an essential piece of safety gear that protects your head while riding. It is the most important piece of equipment; the best advice is to never get on a horse without one. Proper helmet care is vital to ensure your safety when saddling up.
If you take good care of your riding helmet, it will take good care of you in the unfortunate event that you fall from your horse and crack your head.
Cleaning your hat is a vital part of good maintenance. Cleaning is an opportunity to check your headgear over for cracks, dents, and other signs of damage and distress. To help you maintain your equipment with pride, we provide the ultimate guide on how to clean your riding helmet. Follow the simple steps and enjoy a happy, healthy, and safe riding experience.
Riding Helmet Cleaning Materials
You’ll need a few materials and accessories to keep your hat in tip-top shape:
- Microfibre cloth or sponge: Use a clean cloth of even thickness. A microfibre cloth or other material free of fluff and lint is perfect. A sponge also works well.
- Soft clothes brush: Choose a firm brush but check that the bristles are not too hard. Harsh bristles tend to cause scuffing or worse. Natural bristles (like horsehair bristles) work a treat, especially on delicate materials like suede and velvet.
- Mild soap or helmet cleaner: You want to use a mild soap or cleaner such as dish soap or mild baby shampoo.Avoid cleaners with solvents, harsh chemicals, and other abrasive ingredients. These will do your hat more harm than good.
- Bowl of lukewarm water: Lukewarm water will be needed to create a soap lather and also to rinse your helmet afterwards. If you have a second clean bowl, that’s great because the best way to clean your helmet’s inside fittings may be to hand wash them in a bowl.
- Clean towel or two
- Drying rack: a drying rack is the perfect drying solution. If you don’t have one, use a clean towel as a drying surface when you air-dry your hat.
- Specially formulated cleaning products and deodorisers: There are plenty of specially formulated products for cleaning your riding helmet. You may want to use a specific product for that extra special exterior cleaning but it’s certainly not necessary every time.A specialised cleaner is more relevant for the inside, which can get smelly and a little unhealthy. If you have a compatible cleaner endorsed by the manufacturer, by all means, include it in your cleaning kit. An approved sanitiser spray provides a nice fresh, fragrant lift.
- Other accessories: A soft toothbrush and cotton (ear) buds help you get to hard-to-reach places.
- Compressed air: Compressed air is handy to clean air vents and remove dirt in the inner linings.
An 8-Step Guide To Clean Your Riding Helmet Exterior
- Remove all accessories: If your helmet has removable inner linings and padding, carefully detach and remove these sections. Take off accessories such as visors too. You might also take off the chin straps, though this isn’t strictly necessary.
- Brush off dirt: Use your soft clothes brush to remove caked-on dirt, mud, and grit. Do this when the dirt is completely dry or else you’re just smudging wet dirt around the shell.Brush the surface all over with short, brisk strokes to get rid of as much of the sand and grit as possible before introducing soap and water.
- Wet and clean: Dampen your cloth or sponge with lukewarm water and a small amount of mild soap or helmet-specific cleaner. Wring out the cloth so that it’s not sopping wet. Give the shell a wipe-down all over to remove dirt and grit.Pay extra attention to any areas with stubborn stains. If you have a visor or faceguard, clean these attachments the same way.
- Air vents: Don’t forget about ventilation openings. It’s vital for airflow to clear air vents of dust and grit. A few targeted sprays of compressed air should do the trick. You can also brush the vents gently with a toothbrush or use a cotton bud dipped in mild soapy water to clear the passageways.
- Chin straps: With your cloth or sponge, clean the chin straps by wiping them down with mild soap and lukewarm water. Rinse them with a quick dunk in clean water but don’t leave them in water to get saturated.
- Buckle Cleaning: If parts of the buckles are tricky to reach with a cloth, try using cotton buds to clean these buckles and other small parts of the helmet that are less accessible. Dip the cotton bud in mild soapy water and lever it through the buckles and crevices.Wipe down neatly with a small, clean towel afterwards.
- Rinse: Be sure to rinse your riding helmet thoroughly after cleaning to wash off all the soap. Use a clean, damp, lint-free cloth to give the helmet, straps, and accessories a thorough wipe-down. Aim for zero soap residue.
- Dry: Place the hat on a drying rack or clean towel in a dry, well-ventilated area. Allow it to air dry completely. Keep it out of direct sunlight and away from artificial heat sources like radiators and heaters.
How to clean a velvet riding helmet
- Velvet can get water stained, so you should limit the use of water when cleaning a velvet-covered hat.
- Instead, brush off dried and loose dirt and debris with a soft-bristled brush. You can also use gentle air pressure. Brush firmly but gently over the entire surface to remove all the dirt and dust from the velvet.
- Be careful not to use a brush with hard, stiff bristles because this may damage or mark the material.
- To revive the nap of the velvet after cleaning, many riders hold their helmets over a pot of steaming water. Gentle steaming also removes dirt. Use a kitchen towel to protect your hands from the boiling water and steam.
- Allow the hat to air dry in a ventilated space.
- Give the velvet a gentle brush with a clean brush afterwards to perk up the nap.
How to clean a suede helmet
A suede helmet also requires more delicate cleaning.
- Use a soft-bristled brush to gently brush off dirt and debris. You can get a brush specifically designed for suede and nubuck.
- To clean stains, use a spot-cleaning approach. Use a damp lint-free cloth and mild soap and water solution to target the stain. Be sure to wring out excess water from the cloth because you don’t want to soak your suede.
- Dab and gently rub the stained spot in a circular motion. You can get specific suede cleansers but it’s advisable to check with your helmet manufacturer before investing in a cleanser product.
- To remove the soap apply a quick ‘rinse’ by dampening a separate cloth or sponge with clean water and blotting the area you cleaned. Repeat once if necessary.
- Allow the helmet to air dry.
- To refresh and lift the nap, give the suede a loving brush with back-and-forth strokes.
Cleaning The Insides Of A Riding Helmet
The helmet’s interior lining keeps the hat fitted snugly and comfortably on your head. It also provides protection and cushioning if you fall and knock your head.
The inside of a riding helmet is prone to become a bit grimy and smelly if not looked after. Sweat, hair products, and sunscreen get into the material causing bacteria buildup, smells, and other unsanitary conditions like mould.
Let’s walk through the different ways of keeping everything fresh and clean inside your helmet.
- With modern helmets, the helmet liner can often be removed and machine-washed. Here it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If machine washing is recommended, it’s usually only in cold water.
- Alternatively, you can hand wash gently in a bowl with mild soap or baby shampoo and lukewarm water.
- Rinse in a bowl of clean water to remove the cleaner residue.
- If the liner is not removable, dampen a lint-free cloth with mild soap/shampoo and water, and gently clean the interior of the helmet. Wipe down with a damp cloth once or twice afterwards.
- Compressed air can also be used to blow dust and dirt out of the inner parts.
If the manufacturer approves the use of a cleaner or deodoriser, this is a good option; especially if the liner can’t be removed. Follow these steps for a happy result:
- Spray the approved cleaner into the inside of your helmet.
- Wait a few minutes for the cleaner to settle.
- With a wet cloth, work the cleaner into the helmet liner and headband in a circular motion. Make sure the cloth is not too wet to avoid saturating the insides.
- Wipe down the surface until you have worked all the grime off the headband and liner.
- If you wish, you can use a helmet-specific sanitiser spray to kill any bacteria and reduce odours. First, make sure the sanitiser is suitable for use on your helmet materials.
Whatever means you use to clean the inner lining, the drying procedure is the same. Set the cleaned parts on a towel or rack in a well-ventilated area and let them air dry naturally.
After Cleaning Helmet Care
Once your hat is shiny on the outside and fragrant on the inside:
- Reassemble: When everything is dry, reassemble the helmet, putting back the liners, pads, and straps. Ensure all the parts are securely attached.
- Store: Store your clean and dry helmet in a helmet bag or a clean storage space. Don’t leave it exposed to direct sunlight or in a space prone to extreme temperatures.
- Inspect regularly: Before each ride, inspect your helmet for any signs of damage or wear. Check both the inside and outside. You should replace your helmet if there are cracks, dents, or compromised elements.
Whether you’re a beginner rider or an experienced equestrian, cleaning your helmet regularly is a valuable habit to adopt. It will keep your headgear safe and hygienic and will likely also extend the life of this vital piece of horse riding gear.
What To Avoid When Cleaning Your Riding Helmet
- Don’t put your helmet in a washing machine (except for the inner section if the manufacturer recommends it).
- Don’t use hard-bristled brushes.
- Avoid solvent-based cleaners like rubbing alcohol.
- Avoid harsh, abrasive cleaners or chemicals.
- Never dry clean.
- Be careful about using too much water on suede, velvet, and other delicate fabrics.
- Don’t use direct sun or any artificial heat sources to dry the helmet. Hairdryers, fire, radiators, and heaters should be kept away. Instead, air dry completely.
- Don’t keep your helmet for long periods in a car because daytime heat, lack of ventilation, and temperature extremes may warp and damage it.
- It’s advisable not to use cleaning products that are meant for the helmet’s interior, on the helmet’s exterior and vice versa.
Can you use vinegar to clean a riding hat?
You can use a bit of vinegar diluted with water in a 1:1 ratio to clean the inside of a riding hat, but it’s not advisable to use vinegar on the outside of the helmet.
How often should you replace your riding helmet?
It’s recommended that you replace your helmet around every 5 years. If your helmet isn’t cracked or damaged and hasn’t suffered the impact of a fall, you can extend the helmet’s life by looking after it well and replacing the inner helmet liner periodically, assuming it is removable.
How do you get a smelly riding helmet clean?
You can use a cleaner-deodoriser if approved by your helmet’s manufacturer. Spray the cleaner into the insides of your helmet, wait a few minutes, and then use a clean, dampened cloth to wipe throughout to remove dirt and grime. Use a second damp cloth to give it a final wipe-down. Air dry the helmet and use a scented deodoriser to enliven its smell.