Keeping track and field uniforms looking great doesn't need to be such a chore. It would be nice if every runner or jumper or discus thrower had managers who whisked away the dirty uniforms and a nice, clean one magically appeared on event day. But since that is reserved for the chosen few, here are some tips for keeping track and field uniforms looking their best.
Know Your Material
Learn the Presoak
Presoaking is essential in getting your uniform clean. After the event, rinse off the uniform in a utility sink to remove as much loose dirt and body soil as possible.
Next fill a large sink or bucket with warm – not hot – water. Add a capful of heavy duty laundry detergent and one cup of baking soda to neutralize odor; then soak the uniform for at least one hour. It is even better if it can soak overnight.
It is important to know if the water in your area is hard or soft. Hard water contains an excess of minerals that make detergents much less effective in removing soil. If you have hard water, your uniform will be harder to clean and you will need to add some water conditioner to your presoak bucket. This is not fabric softener; it is an additive that helps your detergent work better.
It may be tempting to use chlorine bleach on white or even gray uniforms but it is not effective for polyester fabrics and can even damage the material.
Instead, use an oxygen or all-fabric bleach to brighten and whiten. Again, allow the uniform to soak for at least one hour to get the best results.
Track may be a team sport but the uniform should travel alone like a long-distance runner through the washing machine. Do not wash the uniform with other clothes. Most clothes contain cotton or a cotton blend. The lint will come off and cling to the jersey’s letters and numbers. After the uniform has pre-soaked, fill the washer with cool water and detergent and launder as usual. Never use hot water. Even if the uniform is white, the lettering and numbers are colored and will fade.
Forget The Heat
Never put a sports uniform in the dryer. High heat causes shrinking, sets in stains and fades colors. Hang the uniform to air dry away from direct sunlight.
Blood, Sweat and Tears
I know there is no crying in track and field but when there is blood use cold water. Hot water will only set the stains and make them nearly impossible to remove. The pre-soaking techniques will usually take care of blood, sweat and grass stains. Inspect the uniform before you put it into wash and treat any remaining stains with a pre-treater or by rubbing in extra detergent.
Specific questions? Just ask here.