Cleaning your gear after a mud race has got to be the worst part of obstacle and mud racing. You know that feeling when you finally get home with the medal still around your neck, a few hours after you’ve already finished the race with the adrenaline long since worn off and then you remember that you’ve still got to clean up your stuff.
If you have done more than a couple of mud and obstacle races you definitely faced the dilemma of taking care of your gear the same night, next morning or letting it sit. Yes, let it ferment so that you wouldn’t have to clean it, since cleaning it will not make a difference and it will still stink. But there’s an easier approach to this, which I use almost every time (whenever I’m not too lazy or too shattered).
You might also think, that throwing all the mud-caked gear straight into the washing machine will do no harm and is the easiest route to the squeaky clean shoes and clothes – wrong. Speaking from personal experience with a broken laundry machine and flooded kitchen floor – don’t do it, learn from my mistakes.
Sometimes even scrubbing the biggest chunks off will not guarantee that your washing machine is not clogged and its filters jammed.
The ultimate system for cleaning gear efficiently:
1. Gear Separation
Separate gear into segments by purpose and durability: socks with gloves and underwear (I tend to simply throw it away right after the race, because washing it doesn’t do any justice. Seriously – just throw it away. Next up are shorts, towels, compression gear with top layers, and finally shoes with hydration packs packed together. You get the drill.
2. Light clothing first
Put the lightest layered clothing, like socks, gloves and underwear, in a big enough container filled with liquid dish soap. That’s right, in fact that is the solution we are going to use first on every single gear group. Liquid dish soap is designed to dissolve even the dirtiest bits so much, that some health enthusiasts out there are questioning its impacts on our bodies. Another fun fact: Spartan Race use another similar product, washing up detergent, to make their slippery walls more slippery after they’ve already rubbed them with lard; no joke.
Let’s get back to dirty business.
Now you might think it’s a good idea to let this gear soak, but this won’t do much good. What you can actually do to wash all the mud off is simply swirl and twist clothes with your hands. It won’t take long, just about a minute to get them washing machine safe and ready. Now simply toss it in and attend to your remaining gear groups.
3. Second batch – bigger items
Second bunch of clothing requires exactly the same treatment protocol as the first one, the only difference here is to take an extra step prior that. This is due to bigger mud absorption and containment.
To begin with spread out the gear flat and use a water hose (given that it has a high pressure setting) to flush the majority of mud away. This does not have to be perfect. Once it’s relatively clean put in in a container or a bucket filled with water and liquid dish washing soap and swirl it around for a couple of minutes with your hands.
Now let it join the rest of your clothing already ready to go in your washing machine, add some detergent and start the load. What’s going to come out is a set of crisp clean gear. This might be obvious, however skipping the initial wash in the bucket usually results in gear still having a damp smell and not being washed properly.
4. Shoes and heavy duty items
The most irritating and usually time consuming part is dealing with shoes, hydration packs etc. These tend to be exclusively heavily covered in mud. The best you can do is to simply put the shoes and other heavy duty gear outside to dry.
That’s right, being lazy can be beneficial for once. Give it a day or two and the mud is going to be dry enough to shake it away – simply hit one shoe against another and the dirt will drop off. The next step is of course stirring the gear in a bucket filled with water and dish washing liquid. Once that’s done shove it in the machine and let it spin in regular detergent.
This protocol is by far the easiest and fastest way to have your gear recovered, crisp and just like new. Washing it by hand or directly shoving into the washing machine still leaves the residue, smell and general feel of uncleanliness.
Some of the people on instagram and facebook have their methods to clean the gear, here are some interesting ones:
@bradsimspt recommends getting an additional dish washing brush dedicated to gear washing. These usually come with big handles and are pretty handy to brush off the mud.
@naythunrmt is a fan of vibrams. Those are not only good running shoes, but wash off like no other too. Apparently the new editions are now obstacle race friendly too, with relevant grip and traction. You might get some looks looking like a teenage ninja turtle with those toes sticking out though.
@samventuras Prefers car jet cleaner to flush the clothes out. Alternatively cleans his gear in the kitchen sink or shower with high pressure hose and hands and then uses the washing machine. Don’t forget to put a dirt stopper to avoid clogging the pipes.
@oohelen (editor of gritcamp) likes to pass her gear to me. Will need to start charging.
@i_am_not_a_caveman likes to hose everything off so you don’t destroy the machines, then go use the industrial strength machines at a laundromat.
Now the last one and the one with car jet cleaner seems like a proper macho way to make the gear squeaky clean without sacrificing your equipment.
The only downside to this is you might need to find a garden to hose or high pressure wash your things first and then spend time going to a local laundromat and then wait for your clothes to wash. Still a suggestion if you don’t want your machine to break down.