Properly cleaning your motorcycle helmet can be a matter of life and death. Don’t believe me? Read on. Looking for some solid helmet cleaners? Check out our article on the best motorcycle helmet cleaners.
Let’s paint a scene, it’s December, around 5 P.M. in Alabama. It’s a nice cool day, but warm for the time of year, dusk, you are getting on the highway. There is a minivan sitting at the stop sign to your right, but you have the right of way, so you go on. Suddenly they pull out completely blocking your one lane ramp. You hit the brakes, but are going too fast and they lock. The back wheel loses traction and goes sideways and you high side it. As you are going through the air you can see the ground coming closer, then all at once you hit. There is a sickening crack as your head hits the ground. Next thing you know you are waking up in a ditch waiting for the paramedics.
This was the scene of my first wreck and I thank my lucky stars every day that I was wearing my helmet. When I took the helmet off there was a huge crack down the side where I had hit a rock. I got lucky, I was wearing my helmet and managed to walk (slowly) away from hitting the road at 50 MPH.
Your helmet is easily the single most important piece of gear you can own. Nothing else you can buy is going to do more to save you when the worst happens on a bike. That being said, it also needs to be comfortable and look good. Let’s be honest, no matter what you do bugs and sweat happen. While a smelly, bug splattered helmet is definitely unappealing, don’t start cleaning your helmet every single day with whatever chemicals you have lying around for the rest of your bike. Because most of those cleaners will damage your helmet. While that helmet has something else to do other than just looking fresh, clean, and shiny.
So today I am going to show you the proper way to clean your helmet so you can be safe without smelling like a gym bag. Just follow along below:
What Not to do
First, there are a few things you should never do. Never use solvent based cleaners. Solvents can damage the helmet over time and can also ruin the appearance of a new helmet. You wouldn’t use acetone to clean your tank would you? Then don’t use it on your helmet. You will also want to avoid dish soaps and ammonia based cleaners such as glass cleaner as these can strip the outer coating off of your helmet as well. Finally, avoid using fabric softener (It will stop the pads from absorbing sweat) and abrasives (You don’t want to scratch that glossy finish do you?).
A good rule of thumb is: If you wouldn’t use it on your tank, don’t use it on your full face helmet.
Step 1: Cleaning Your Motorcycle Helmet Pads
First, we need to go ahead and clean the pads. Most helmets have removable pads which makes cleaning them easy. Simply remove the pads from the helmet. These are usually secured with either Velcro or a snap button. If it’s not coming out, don’t force it, you can still clean them. You don’t want to ruin your helmet by tearing a pad. Be sure to keep track of where each of these go for later.
To wash the pads use a mild laundry detergent. Any liquid detergent without bleach should be fine. You can hand wash the pads, but a much better option is to use the washing machine on a gentle cycle. DO NOT put your pads in the dryer. Place them on a towel and allow them to dry on their own.
If your pads are not removable all hope is not lost. Just get a big bucket (Big enough for your helmet) and fill it with warm water and your choice of detergent. Let the helmet soak in this mix for 5-10 minutes then flip the helmet upside down and squeeze the pads like you would a dish sponge. Do this a few times to get all if the dirty and sweat out. Drain your bucket and refill with just warm water and repeat the process to remove the detergent.
Step 2: Cleaning The Motorcycle Helmet Shell
OK, we’ve cleaned the pads and your helmet smells great, but it’s still covered in bug guts and road grime. Not to worry, this is the easy part. As I said before, never use solvents or ammonia to clean your helmet.
Start by removing the visor. Now get you a microfiber cloth and some cotton swabs. Mix some warm water with your detergent and soak one of your cloths in it. Now you want to drape the cloth over any bad spots and let them soak. The end goal here is for those guts and grime to just wipe right off. Scrub too much and you risk damaging the appearance of your helmet.
Once the helmet has had time to soak gently wipe it clean with your microfiber cloth. Use as little pressure as possible to avoid scratches. Continue to soak, wipe, and repeat until you are satisfied then wipe it down with a dry microfiber cloth to avoid water spots.
Step 3: Cleaning The Motorcycle Helmet Vents
Now that the shell is good and clean we can move on to the vents. You don’t want to be breathing in bug guts, do you? Get those cotton swabs from earlier and soak them in your cleaning solution and use them to scrub the vents on your helmet. If you do not have a full face helmet skip this step and consider buying a full face helmet. They’re lifesavers.
Now just let everything dry and put it back together.
Optionally you can use automotive wax to give your helmet an extra shine once it is cleaned. This will also make cleaning easier in the future. You can also put an anti-fogging solution on your visor to prevent fogging on those cool nights. Yet again, keep in mind to not use anything solvent based!
Looking for even more info? Check out our article about the best motorcycle helmet cleaners. If you want to not just clean your motorcycle helmet, but also your entire motorcycle, have a look at our best motorcycle cleaner guide. And if you want to truly go all-out and wax your motorcycle as well, we wrote a neat guide on the best car wax. When it comes to waxes, there isn’t much difference between motorcycle wax and car wax, while there are a lot more so called “car wax” products than “motorcycle waxes” around.