How To Clean and Maintain your Motorcycle Helmet

You may have spent good money on a beautiful, high-end, well-designed motorcycle helmet, but if you don’t clean and maintain it properly, it will become a funky, grimy, beat-up brain bucket way before it’s time. Check out our guide on how to take care of your motorcycle helmet the right way, and protect your investment!

 

Your motorcycle helmet has a big job to do. It not only needs to protect you in a crash, but it also needs to protect your face from debris and bugs on the road, insulate your head from the weather, and be comfortable for hours at a time, month after month, for years. High quality helmets can do all that, no problem – but you have to do your part so they don’t turn into a funky, grimy, scratched up mess!

In this article, we’ll show you how to protect your motorcycle helmet investment, the best way to deep clean your helmet (no matter what kind of helmet it is), and how to maintain it properly for the long haul. Let’s get started!

 

The Fastest Way To Ruin a Helmet

There’s the good kind of funk, and the bad kind of funk. Parliament and the Ohio Players? Good funk. The way your two year-old helmet smells after a long ride in warm weather? Bad funk. You see, helmets absorb a lot of sweat and body oils over long term use, which permeates the liner and foam and causes an odor that can make a helmet pretty unpleasant after a while.

And that’s just the inside of the helmet. On the outside, you’ve got bug guts, dust, buildup of soot and smog, rain, grimy fingerprints, and more to deal with. A helmet that gets used the way it’s supposed to is going to take a beating – that’s just how it is.

But despite all that, what damages helmets most isn’t any of those things – it’s actually improper maintenance done by people trying to clean them. Bug guts are nasty, but won’t actually damage your helmet; but cleaning them with solvent or scrubbing them with an abrasive cloth will. The fact is, most helmet problems we see are caused by either improper maintenance, or a lack of it altogether.

That’s why it’s so important to know how to, and how not to take care of your helmet. Not maintaining your helmet properly is bad; doing it wrong is even worse.

 

The Basic Do’s and Don’ts of Helmet Care:

Even you don’t read anything else in this article, read through these helmet care do’s and don’ts. Many people clean their helmets the wrong way or using the wrong products, and end up doing more harm than good. If you follow these simple guidelines, you’ll be in good shape.

Do:

  • Use mild soaps when cleaning the liner, like baby shampoo or mild laundry detergent
  • Use a towel soaked in warm water to soak and loosen bug guts for a few minutes before wiping them away
  • Use soft, scratch-free microfiber towels to clean your helmet
  • Let the suds do the work; use an absolute minimum of pressure when cleaning visors and gloss shells to prevent scratching
  • Use automotive polish on the shell of a gloss helmet (like Plexus or Honda Polish)
  • Use cotton swabs to clean out vents and joints
  • Air dry your helmet and liner, accelerating it with a room fan if desired
  • Protect your helmet with a coat of automotive wax, to prevent water spots, guts, and grime from sticking
  • Lubricate the moving parts of your helmet, like the visor hinge, with a silicone-based lubricant (optional.)
  • Wear a liner, like a skull cap or bandanna, to protect your liner from sweat and body oils between washings.

Do NOT:

  • Scrub the shell or visor of a motorcycle helmet, especially to remove stubborn bug guts
  • Use any petroleum distillate or solvent-based cleaner on your helmet
  • Use glass cleaner or any ammonia-based cleaner on the visor (ammonia breaks down polycarbonate lenses, reducing their integrity over time)
  • Use harsh soaps, like dish soap, on your helmet or liner
  • Use dryer sheets in your helmet to “freshen it” (dryer sheets have harsh chemicals and cause allergic skin reactions in many people)
  • Use fabric softener, or soap with fabric softener in it, to clean your liner (fabric softener will prevent moisture-wicking liners from working)
  • Put your helmet liner in the dryer

Deep Cleaning Your Helmet

That “new helmet smell” is about as close as you’re ever going to get to “that new car smell” on your bike. Unfortunately, your helmet spends so much time in close contact with your head and face, that it gets funkified by sweat and body oils, making it feel and smell old before its time. Deep cleaning a motorcycle helmet inside and out is a bit of a process, but a worthwhile one, when you put your helmet back on and it smells like a summer breeze.

There are basically two kinds of helmets when it comes to cleaning procedures: those with removable liners, and those without them. If you have one with a removable liner, the process is a breeze; if not, your helmet will require a bit more work. Skip right to the section that corresponds with what you have.

 

Deep Cleaning A Motorcycle Helmet with a Removable Liner

If you have a removable liner, you have it easy, because all you will be laundering is the liner and interior pads, and you can clean the shell separately.

Cleaning the Liner and Pads

  1. Pull out the liner and all pads from the helmet, paying attention to how they are secured into place (some pads can be a little confusing to put back together.)
  2. Wash the liner and pads on a delicate cycle with mild laundry detergent (you can also hand wash them if you prefer; make sure you rinse them very well to remove any soap residue)
  3. Pat your liner and pads dry with a towel and let them air dry

That’s it!

Cleaning the Shell

  1. Remove the visor from the helmet
  2. Mix up a washing solution made of warm water and a mild soap
  3. Soak a microfiber towel in the washing solution, and lay it over any areas where bug guts are stuck, letting it soak for several minutes (do the same process for the shell and visor)
  4. Once bug guts are soft, gently rub them loose with the washing solution and your fingertips; do not scrub using pressure with a towel (this is what causes swirls)
  5. Use moist cotton swabs to clean inside vents
  6. Wipe away any soapy residue with a moist microfiber towel
  7. Dry shell and visor with a dry microfiber towel
  8. Use an automotive detailing spray or polish on the shell of the helmet to restore a shine (gloss helmets only)
  9. If desired, apply a coat of automotive wax to your helmet to give it a protective coating; this will make future cleaning much easier!
  10. Reinstall visor, lightly lubricating hinge mechanism with silicone lube if necessary

 

Deep Cleaning a Helmet Without A Removable Liner

If your helmet doesn’t have a removable liner, the process of deep cleaning is going to a bit more work, because you will have to dunk and scrub the entire thing. For this, use a large basin filled with water inside the tub or shower. (The basin is so you can dunk and scrub, and the tub or shower will be so you can rinse it well with plenty of water.)

Cleaning the Helmet

  1. Remove the visor and any pads you can, such as cheek pads (to clean these, you can hand wash them, or follow the machine washing directions above.)
  2. Fill the basin with a washing solution of warm water and baby shampoo or a mild laundry detergent
  3. Line the bottom of the basin with a folded-up towel to prevent the shell from scraping on the bottom while you wash
  4. Dunk the helmet and let it soak for a few minutes, allowing the suds to break down body oils and grime
  5. Rub the liner with your fingertips for several minutes, working the suds into the foam
  6. Rub any spots on the shell with your fingertips to remove grime or bug guts
  7. Remove the helmet from the basin and rinse it with the faucet or shower head; you will have to do this several times to make sure all the soap is rinsed away
  8. When you think you’re done rinsing it…you’re not, rinse it again
  9. Pat the helmet dry, and remove as much moisture as you can from the pads and liner with a dry towel
  10. Wipe clean vents and joints with cotton swabs dipped in the washing solution if necessary
  11. Allow the helmet to air dry; you can accelerate this process with a room fan, but do not use any heat source, like a heater or blow dryer
  12. When dry, use an automotive detailing spray or polish on the shell of the helmet to restore a shine (gloss helmets only)
  13. If desired, apply a coat of automotive wax to your helmet to give it a protective coating; this will make future cleaning much easier!
  14. Reinstall visor, lightly lubricating hinge mechanism with silicone lube if necessary
  15. Now that you know what a hassle this is, buy a helmet with a removable liner for the future. (Just kidding. But not really.)

Preventative Maintenance

Now that you’ve put all the effort into scrubbing your helmet clean, you want to keep it that way, right? Here are a few tips to keep your helmet in tip top shape in between washings. (Note: do these, and you’ll have to wash it a lot less often too.)

  • Wear a skullcap or bandana under your helmet. This is your first line of defense in preventing sweat and body oils from permeating your liner!
  • Put a coat of quality automotive wax on the shell of your helmet (gloss helmets only.) This will make bug guts and grime much easier to remove in the future.
  • Carry a pack of cleaning wipes with you on rides. To wipe down your helmet and clean bug guts before they harden.
  • Never, ever scrub your visor! Rubbing and scrubbing things off your visor is a surefire way to scratch it.
  • Let the cleaner and water do the work. Soak bug guts with cleaner, or even just a warm, wet towel before gently wiping them away.
  • Always let your helmet air out. After a day of riding, shoving your helmet into a bag will keep sweat from evaporating and make odors worse. Always let your helmet air out overnight after a ride.

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