Game on. How to keep sports jerseys looking great.

Fall is jersey season. Whether you wear yours as a spectator, play in a league yourself, or you’re in charge of keeping someone else’s uniform ready to go, it’s important to know the right way to wash a jersey. From blood and sweat to food and beverage spills, jerseys endure a lot. Here are some tips that will help you keep letters from peeling, colors from fading, stains from setting and fabric from stinking so the jersey in your care always looks and smells its best.

Read the label

Jerseys come in all kinds of fabrics and can be quite expensive. Often, they’re made from synthetic fabrics that are machine-washable, but some jerseys have embroidered letters or fabrics like wool that require extra care. That’s why when washing a sports jersey, it’s best to check the label inside the garment so you don’t miss any special instructions.

Pretreat the stains

Whether you’re dealing with a salsa spill from pre-game festivities or ground-in dirt from a tackle, jerseys are subject to the full gamut of stains. Plus, by the time the jersey finds its way to the wash, enough time has passed to allow the stain to set.

To pretreat stains, use a simple solution made from white vinegar, water and baking soda. Mix 1 cup water and 1 cup vinegar together, then add 1 Tablespoon baking soda. Pour the mixture on the stain or work into the stain with a toothbrush and allow to soak for at least 30 minutes before washing. Tough stains like blood or wine require extra soaking.

Turn inside out

Before the jersey goes into the washer, turn it inside out. This exposes the side of the jersey that has had direct contact with oil and sweat so it can get a thorough cleaning. It also protects stitching, letters and numbers on the jersey from rubbing against other surfaces. If the jersey has buttons, unbutton them to reduce the chances of wrinkling.

Use vinegar to tackle odors

Depending on the age and condition of the jersey, it may be starting to retain odors. White vinegar is terrific for deodorizing smelly gear, and in small amounts, doesn’t leave them smelling like vinegar. Simply take a quarter cup of vinegar and pour it into the washing machine (or place inside the bleach dispenser). Then add the laundry detergent, as you normally would.  

Gentle detergent. Gentle cycle.

Color is key to a jersey’s beauty, so you’re going to want to use a color-safe or neutral detergent as they contain little or no bleach. Avoid fabric softeners and dry-cleaning because the chemicals can harm the fabric. You should typically wash jerseys in cold water and on a low-spin cycle to limit damage to letters or numbers on the jersey. And if you’ve got more than one jersey to wash, only wash together if they’re of similar colors.

Leave the tumbling to the players

Heat and friction are not good for a jersey as they can cause peeling or cracking of decals, numbers and letters, plus they can lead to shrinking. That said, you’ll want to avoid the dryer completely. After removing the jersey from the wash, turn it right side out and hang on a hanger to dry. Make sure to  hang in a well-ventilated area, so it’ll be ready and waiting when the next game day rolls around.