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Cleaning Textile Motorcycle Gear

After two years and 20,000 miles of wearing a First Gear Kilimanjaro 37.5, the high-viz lime wasn't looking so high viz any longer. I'll admit it, I'd probably waited a little too long, but none of my friends complained about riding around with a stinky dirt bomb, so I didn't rush things.

Cleaning textile motorcycle gear isn't as simple as just tossing it in the washer. Some care is needed to be sure it has a successful go-around and doesn't get compromised in the process. And speaking of the process, here's one that works.

1. Empty the pockets - We've seen jackets with as few as four and as many of 20 pockets built into them. The more pockets, the more places we can store things - like - a garage door opener, passport, cellphone, spare key, kickstand pad, neck gaiter, broken key removal tool, papers, business cards, and so much more. None of these or any items are worth destroying in the washer, so be sure to check each pocket twice.

2. Clean the Velcro if necessary - Any Velcro closures can pick up alien substances like weeds, feathers, string, thread, and otherwise. If it needs to be cleaned, use an old toothbrush or pet flea comb to wick it out, taking car not to damage the hooks or the loops.

3. Remove the armor and any interior liners - Most textile pants and jackets will allow you to remove the armor. In some cases it varies on the left and right sides and may vary in size as well. Use a magic marker in black or silver to label each piece so you put it back together later the way it was intended. If the jacket has an interior liner, remove it and plan to run it in a regular load of laundry later.

4. Lock it all down - Zip ALL the zippers closed including the main zippers on the front of the jacket as well as the fly zipper on the pants. Button any and all buttons. And lastly, secure any Velcro adjusters, taking care not to have any hook sections (the scratchy side) exposed. These sections can tear up textile fabric in a single washing. Better manufacturers take care to hem the hook section on armor on the piece you remove, if the armor is sealed in fabric.

5. Manually treat any excessive stains - If you have an all-black riding suit, you can skip this section. Those of use who like a little color in our life can read it. Use a spray on stain removal product like Shout or mix up a table spoon of non-detergent cleaner like Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap with a cup of water. Apply the liquid to heavily stained parts of the garment, starting with the dirtiest areas first so they get more soaking time. Using a soft nylon dish brush, scrub the liquid into the stained area. Don't use bleach.

6. Wash it - Top load washers are pretty rough on textile riding gear and we've seen a garment or two get shredded over the years. Side load units are preferred. Using a non-detergent cleaner, like Nikwax Tech Wash, wash the garment through a regular cycle in warm water. Only wash one garment at a time. Run your jacket in one load; pants in another. If you're treating it with a washer-safe water-proofing liquid like Nikwax TX Direct, be sure to add it in to the bleach or fabric softener dispenser now. Never combine waterproofing agents with detergents or non-detergent in the initial cycle or you'll turn the jacket into a goopy, sticky mess worthy only of the dumpster.

7. Air dry it - Many jackets and pants profess to be waterproof and some seams utilize a tape to secure the barrier. Running a garment in a hot dry can cause these seams to weaken and fail. Our advice is simple - air dry it if at all possible. Now is also the time to apply any spray-on waterproofing solution if you plan to go that route. Products like Nikwax's TX Spray On prefer to go onto a wet garment, rather than a dry one, since the wetness creates the conduit the product needs to penetrate the garment. You can rub it in gently with that nylon dish brush for additional adhesion.

8. Put it back together - Once your gear is dry, slip the armor back into place, reinstall any interior liners, reload your pockets, and enjoy the ride until you reach the point of stinky dirt bomb again.

Patrick Thomas/March 2018

All Nikwax products mentioned in this article are available at . Dr. Bronner's soaps are available at better grocery and health food stores as well as online. Shout is available at better grocery stores.

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