How to Clean a Bike Helmet [5-Step Disinfection Guide]

This post may contain affiliate links, which help to keep Discerning Cyclist rolling. Learn more.

Rain, sweat, mud and more. Our helmets bear the brunt of the elements and our body when we cycle. We usually wash our clothes (and ourselves!) after we’ve been out for a ride but have you ever wondered if you also need to clean your helmet?

Well, if hygiene and your personal odour are at all important to you, the answer is a resounding YES!

Do Bicycle Helmets Need Cleaning? 

Just as your helmet looks after you when you cycle, you need to look after your helmet by keeping it clean. Regular maintenance of your helmet will stop it from becoming smelly, dirty and unsightly – meaning it can protect you for longer. 

Bike Helmet Fungus 

We’re used to associating fungus with mushrooms in the woods but a damp or wet helmet caused by rain or sweat can be the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungus to grow. In fact on this forum a cyclist asked for advice after finding a moth living in the mould in his helmet! 

How Do You Clean a Sweaty Bike Helmet?

It is simple, quick and easy to clean your helmet. All you need is a mild soap or washing liquid, water and a soft sponge or microfibre cloth. There are three areas to clean – the outside, the inner pads and the helmet straps.  

Can I Put My Helmet in the Dishwasher?

Dishwashers should not be used to clean helmets. It may seem like a quick fix but as dishwashers use heat, this can damage both the outer and inner parts of helmets and there is even a fire risk.  

The British Helmet Safety Institute ran some experiments cleaning a wide range of different helmets in dishwashers to evidence why it is a bad idea. Their findings and photos showed loss of important safety stickers, warping of the helmet shape and the inner foam being affected. So as tempting as it may seem, do not put your helmet in the dishwasher. 

Can I Put My Helmet in a Washing Machine?

Washing machines are best avoided when cleaning your helmet as the process can cause damage. The only part of a helmet that you can put in a washing machine is the inner pads which can be washed on a cold, gentle cycle according to the manufacturer’s guidance on your helmet’s labels. 

How to Clean Bike Helmet Inside [STEPS]

Washing your helmet by hand is the easiest way to clean it. Before you give the outside of your helmet a quick wash and wipe using a soft sponge/microfibre cloth and soapy water in your sink, bath or a bucket, it is time to clean the inside. 

Ahead of starting this process, it is important to check the manufacturer’s instructions for your helmet which can be found either on a label within your helmet or by checking their website. Also be mindful throughout of not leaving your helmet in water for too long as some may get inside.  

  1. Start by removing the pads inside your helmet. These will vary depending on what helmet you have but they usually use velcro.
  2. Wash these pads either by hand with a mild soap and soft sponge or cloth, or by putting them in the washing machine according to the manufacturer’s guidance. If you opt for the washing machine, it is helpful to use a mild detergent and place them inside a mesh bag to keep them together. 
  3. Air dry the pads then clean any other dirt from the inside of your helmet with a cloth or brush.
  4. Clean your helmet straps by rubbing soap/washing liquid into them with your hands.
  5. Once you’ve cleaned the outside and everything is dry, reattach your pads and you’re good to ride, and then repeat! 

This useful Global Cycling Network video gives you a good idea of what the above looks like, and also includes the shower step which can be an efficient way to wash you and your helmet simultaneously if you’re pushed for time! 

Bike Helmet Disinfectant Spray 

Although water and soap will suffice, there are products you can buy to give your helmet a deeper clean and disinfect it. Make sure to steer clear of harsh chemicals though as they can damage the surface and foam parts of your helmet. This includes solvents, petroleum products, and cleaning agents that contain ammonia.  

Many products are aimed at all kinds of helmets, and the British Helmet Safety Institute recommends these three:

  1. Progold Helmet Cleaner and Deodoriser – This will return your helmet ‘to like new condition’. A spray foam, it can be used on all parts of your helmet and deals with the source of smells, as well as removing ‘dirt, grime and bugs’. 
  1. Charles Owen Helmet Cleaner and Deodoriser – This eco-friendly spray both cleans and freshens your helmet, leaving it smelling of lemon and grapefruit instead of sweat. It also handles suncream, make up and dust! 
  1. Bennett Engineering Helmet Fresh – Highly recommended for dealing with odours, this product is environmentally friendly, non-toxic, non-allergenic, non-flammable, non-corrosive and contains no alcohol or oils so your helmet is in good hands.

If sadly you’re already in moth territory despite all these tips, it may be time to part ways with your helmet. It is possible your helmet may have already passed its best anyway as even clean helmets don’t last forever. However, from hanging baskets to storage bowls it can live on as there are many innovative ways to recycle your bike helmet. 

Once you’ve found a new home for your old helmet, replacing it is the next step. With so much choice, it is important to pick the best option for you. Perhaps you’re climate conscious and are looking for an eco-friendly choice of helmet, or maybe safety on your commute is your priority in which case our top 7 safest bike helmets recommendations will come in handy. 

It is important to keep on top of looking after your new or newly cleaned helmet by following the above tips and advice both after mucky rides, but also on a regular basis and at least every three months. On that note, I’m now off to clean mine!

Discerning Cyclist Store

Visit the Discerning Cyclist's Shop

Ride in style

Join our weeky newsletter to get early access to our latest discoveries.

Related reads