Volleyball knee pads are a notorious entity--especially when left in the bottom of gym bags, lockers or trunks.
It’s no one’s fault that you sweat when you’re working hard on court, but not cleaning your knee pads can take a toll on your teammates’ nostrils.
How to wash volleyball knee pads: There are two methods worth learning. 1) Gentle cold cycles with white vinegar and detergent in the washing machine; and/or 2) washing your volleyball knee pads in the shower or sink after games.
There are different situations where each washing method will come in handy:
And after reading this, you’ll have no excuse for keeping smelly knee pads for weeks (or months) on end.
Can you wash volleyball knee pads?
Yes, you certainly can and should wash volleyball knee pads. I think most people asking this are really talking about putting them through a cycle in the washing machine, though, so let’s walk through that process step by step.
There are three things worth noting on this:
You’ll want to keep the water temperature relatively low;
You’ll keep the spinning speed low, too; and
Be sure to add detergent or some form of anti-bacterial soap.
The temperature of the water that you use is important because of how knee pads are made. Usually, with most volleyball-specific brands, the fibers of your knee pads won’t do well under high temperatures.
It could mean that your knee pads shrink over time--making them uncomfortable to wear, or near-impossible to put on over your shoes.
Secondly, keeping a gentle or low spin speed makes sure that your knee pads don’t get pushed out of place.
If you’ve never had a knee pad that slid down too far in its case, got folded in an awkward bundle or just started ripping at the seam:
I envy you.
Keep the spin speed to a gentle cycle, and also try to do your load with other sporting gear so that the knee pads aren’t just bumping into each other by themselves.
Lastly, that smell coming from your knee pads isn’t just a bad scent--it’s a sign of bacteria lurking in the fibers.
Adding laundry detergent or a mild antibacterial soap is all you need to do to fight this, and it’s the main reason you want to be washing your knee pads every 1-2 weeks (at least!).
Can you put volleyball knee pads in the dryer?
It’s a bad idea.
There’s no guarantee that you’ll ruin your new mizuno knee pads by throwing them in the dryer, but if it isn’t necessary--avoid it.
Again, high temperatures and knee pads don’t mix too well. And when you are rushing to dry off your knee pads before training by throwing them in the dryer, you’ll probably just end up with two knee pads that are more uncomfortable than they would’ve been covered in sweat and stench.
If you really find yourself in a jam and need your knee pads to dry off quickly, keep the heat on a low setting and try to put some other clothes, towels or items in the dryer with the knee pads.
Removing odor from knee pads without washing them.
While the old spray-them-with-deodorant trick is a favorite of mine, you’ve probably learnt that this doesn’t last very long. As soon as you get back out there, the sweet smelling deodorant fades, and you’re left with that old familiar scent.
And when it comes to removing the really deep smell that goes with knee pads and knee braces:
Washing them with regular laundry detergent may not be enough to fully get rid of the stink.
What you often find is that after a load of laundry, your knee pads will smell pretty much the same, just with an added layer of detergent smell.
The key to removing the odor is to let your knee pads soak in white vinegar. Just 60 seconds, mixed with water, should do the trick.
White vinegar is a natural cleaning agent, and it will work wonders for getting rid of that built-up bacteria and bad smell.
So, now we know what it’s all about--let's get into the simple guide.
How to clean volleyball knee pads
Method #1: Machine Wash
This is how we recommend you wash your volleyball knee pads when possible. It’ll give you the most thorough clean, and it’s as simple as adding them to your regular sports load.
Place your knee pads in the washing machine, either directly or in a mesh laundry bag.
Try to do this with a full to semi-full load of similar items: things like practice clothes and socks.
Add some mild laundry detergent to the machine, and also add a capful of white vinegar to really attack that deep stink.
Run the wash on a cold and gentle cycle--remember, heat and knee pads don’t mix and the gentle spin cycle will make sure your knee pads don’t get pushed out of place in the wash.
Once the load is done, give yourself plenty of time to hang-dry your knee pads in an open space. Putting them in the dryer in emergencies probably won’t do any long-term damage, but ideally you’ll want to avoid this.
Method #2: Shower or sink wash
This is a method that you’ll probably need to get familiar with if you ever play long tournaments on the road.
Week-long nationals staying with the team?
You may find a time where this method is useful and saves your teammates a little bit of stink out on court.
Take your knee pads into the shower with you, and drop them on the ground.
As the water runs, stomp and press on the knee pads while you shower.
You should notice dirty, colored water running from the knee pads as you press, so continue to do so until this fades.
Add some soap into the mix and then rinse the kneepads until the bubbles have cleared.
Dry off and hang your knee pads up to dry, hopefully smelling a little better than they did before.
The same approach can be taken in the sink. Just fill a sink with water, add some soap (and white vinegar, if you have it), then press and squeeze the knee pads under water until they clear the discoloration.
And don’t forget to really give them a good final squeeze before hanging them up to dry--this will save you some time on the back end.
Does it matter which type or brand of knee pad?
Since there are hundreds of specific brands out there, I couldn’t answer this perfectly. But if we’re sticking with the main brands:
How to wash McDavid volleyball knee pads is pretty much the same as how to wash mizuno volleyball knee pads.
McDavid actually advocates that you treat their gear with particular care--suggesting that you always hand wash their products. In my experience, if you follow a cold wash with a gentle cycle, they will be just fine though.
When it comes to the longer-sleeved McDavid knee pads, it’s probably good practice to make sure you do keep the water cold and the cycles on a low spin. They’re not the cheapest knee pads on the market, but they give you serious support--all the way through the knee joint while keeping your thighs and the tops of your calves warm.
*If you do invest in a pair, it’s worth taking care of them. They’ll last you more than a few seasons and personally the long-black style is something I can get on-board with. If you’re looking for a new pair that will last you, you can order McDavid knee pads on Amazon.
The price changes pretty often, though, so I can’t give you an exact dollar amount--depending on the day, they might be on sale or at full-price so it’s just up to your luck!
Washing your knee pads regularly is a common kindness to yourself and your teammates.
I won’t stay up on my high horse for too long, though--we’ve all been guilty of rushing to practice and pulling on our pre-sweaty knee pads.
But now that you at least know you can wash them in the machine, sink or shower, adding some vinegar to reduce the smell, you’ll just have one less excuse to fall back on.
Sorry about that.
Was this post useful?
If so, share it with that friend or teammate who really needs to learn a thing or two about cleaning their knee pads…
And if you want to know about keeping your volleyball shoes and practice gear in the best possible shape, go check out our resources page where we give our piece on the best volleyball gear and how to take care of it well.