Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When Hockey Stinks!

Oh the smell. You try rubbing it out and scrubbing it out... but you still get the stubborn stink around the collar, shoulders, elbows, skates and superior stink inside the gloves. How much can a hockey parent’s nose take?

We’ve had some good debates about the best odor-busting methods in the stands over the years. One dad keeps a can of shaving cream handy and employs a spray-and-rinse-the-hands routine after every game. He swears by it. Another mom came up with a kitty litter concoction that seems to absorb or at least mask the moldy mysteries inside her son’s hockey bag. I’ve always been a big fan of the tried and true method of constant airing and cleaning. We never let the gear sit in the bag overnight. We religiously hang it up on a rack, in a dry spot and clean it as often as possible. On a hot summer day, the gear goes outside and we let the sun beat down on it. It’s a lot of work and may not lend to gear longevity, but it has worked for us.

Aren’t you curious about all the new products now advertised, promising to make a mom’s life easier? Do they really work? Being on a tight budget, I’ve been reluctant to spend any extra cash on something that will end up on the shelf having wasted my time and money.

Then, a request landed in my inbox. The folks at Deodorall Sport (www.deodorallsport.com) saw this blog and asked if I would give their product a good old hockey mom try. They’ve won praise and glowing endorsements from NHL and collegiate players in the Midwest. Now, they want a New York hockey mom’s assessment. They’re willing to send some samples. I say, why not? If it works, I’ll be honest. If it doesn’t, I’m going to be honest.

Full disclosure and some background on Deodorall before we test it out. I was contacted by Paul Johnson, and he’s based in the hockey hotbed of Minnesota. Johnson says he and his two partners have gained access to a product using eco-friendly ingredients to get rid of that familiar stink that is found on hockey pads, gloves, bags, etc. The samples have just arrived and I’m going to test it on the stinkiest hockey players I know.  I’ll also head to our local pro shop for some expert opinions. Look for results in this blog in about two weeks.

Johnson has done a lot of research on the subject of hockey cleanliness, so I thought I would pick his brain about some of the odor-busting methods I’ve heard about over the years.

Here’s my Q and A with Paul Johnson .

Let’s start with gloves, by far the most offensive smelling of all the gear. One mom swears the best way to remove the stench is by putting them in the dishwasher ( no heat cycle though). So, are hockey gloves dishwasher safe?

     First, a disclaimer -- I am not a chemist but there are some brilliant chemists behind the product and the underlying technology). We agree on the gloves point. When we do product demos, gloves are the first thing we look for (especially the insides). The bag itself is often the 2nd thing we spray down. It is a little like therapy - one spray-down makes a difference, but repeated, simple spray-downs can eliminate the odor altogether. We have heard of others using a dishwasher for some gear, and while it may provide relief, it can’t be good for the dishwasher or gloves. It would also be important to make sure the heat actually gets to a temperature capable of sterilizing. Warm, damp conditions are perfect for bacteria growth, and that is what you are left with at the end of a dishwashing cycle with a leather or nylon product.

We all know the importance of keeping gear dry and aired out after a hard-fought game and sweaty practices. But road trips pose huge challenges, especially when you're stuck in a small hotel room and you risk suffocation by drying out the horrific smelling gear on the heater next to the window. Airing it outside isn't an option during our fierce winter months in Central New York.
     This is a tough one. The conditions on a road trip are not at all conducive to keeping gear dry, clean, or aired-out. Without doing to much of a sales pitch, this is a perfect case for Deodorall Sport. Users spray things down while still in the locker room, and see a significant reduction in the "stink factor" (a non-technical term we have coined for how offensive certain odors are). I recall my parents letting gear freeze in the car on those trips, or doing exactly what you said on the hotel heater under a window. It is the combination of repeated use, lack of convenience for cleaning (unlike throwing running clothes in a washing machine), and the fact that the gear is then stored in a closed bag that gives hockey gear such a unique smell. Somehow getting the gear in to sunlight would be ideal, but that is hard to come by during winter in the Northern climates.
Aside from the smell, keeping gear dry and clean is important for health reasons too, right? (thinking MRSA here)
At low levels, they cause skin issues (that is why high school athletes seem to have more pimples) but worst case the gear could help staph and strep strains fester. This is why we are so excited about Deodorall Sport-- the active natural ingredients are actually the same thing that can be used by surgeons and for wound care. It eliminates the breeding grounds for bacteria rather than just doing a cover-up. It is important to keep in mind that there are really two things we are fighting with the stink in hockey equipment: One is the smell, but another is the odorous compounds that are the source of the smell. A “cover-up” may do just that -- “cover up” the odor but it doesn’t eliminate the source. One has to think there is a correlation between cleaner gear and healthier players.

Do you need to wash the equipment after every game?

    This would be ideal -- I wash all of my running or cycling gear after every use, but it is much more convenient than doing the same with hockey gear. It probably isn't feasible, which is why airing it out is so important as well as doing something that eliminates the odor causing compounds (this is where our product comes in). In a perfect world, everyone would have two sets of hockey gear that they rotate between -- one dries and gets cleaned while the other gets used. I know the price of hockey gear, though, and it probably isn't realistic for 95% of families.
I have heard of people using vinegar with some temporary success, and have seen people wipe the fabric portions of gear down with detergent mixed with water and a rag. I'd say that is better than nothing, but the core problem is eliminating the bacterial breeding grounds.

That’s the seller’s pitch. Now, stay tuned to find out what whether this hockey mom thinks this product is the real deal or stinks!

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