pair of boxing gloves - feature

How to Clean Your Boxing Gloves: The Complete Guide

Boxing gloves, especially professional ones, are an investment, and if you take the sport seriously, they are likely to be an expensive one. Sadly, like shoes, boxing gloves are exposed to a significant amount of sweat, which causes bacteria to grow, and odors to form, if the gloves are not cared for in a hygienic way. The bacteria growing and breeding in your gloves is not just annoying, causing your gloves to smell terrible, but they can also cause problems to your health, such as infections of the hands and fingernails.

Unfortunately, boxing gloves are much harder to clean than the average pair of shoes, due to the tightly closed nature of them. Hand washing in the normal way will never be thorough enough to properly clean your gloves, and although machine washing might get into all the nooks and crannies, it is very likely to damage your gloves.

Related: How Long Do Boxing Gloves Last? A Comprehensive Guide.

So, if your boxing gloves are a perfect, warm, dark, and moist breeding ground for bacteria, how are you supposed to keep them clean? Read on for all the answers.

Prevention is Better than the Cure

As always, prevention is the best course of action. If you can keep your gloves from ever getting smelly, you will never sit with the problem of wondering how to get rid of the smell. Here’s how to do that:

1. Wipe After Use

drying boxing gloves with a paper towel

Of course, because the cause of the bad smells in boxing gloves is bacteria, the first key to preventing them is to keep the gloves dry. So every time you use your gloves, when you are done, give them a good wipe down with a clean towel or a paper towel. This will minimize the moisture in the gloves, and prevent the growth of bacteria. A sprinkle of baby powder can also be used to absorb moisture, and keep your gloves smelling fresh.

2. Allow to Dry Completely

drying a pair of boxing gloves

When you’ve had your boxing session, and you’re getting ready to go home, obey the first rule of boxing glove hygiene – do not put the gloves in their bag. This is the perfect place for bacteria to start thriving and breeding. Dry the gloves at the gym, as best you can, then carry them home loose, or place them in a grocery bag for the trip. As soon as you get home, hang them out in a well-ventilated area to dry completely. You could also hang them in the sun for a short while, or blow a fan into them to speed up the drying process.

3. Use Hand Wraps

wrapped hands

Whenever you use your gloves, be sure to wrap your hands in good quality, professional hand wraps. Hand wraps will soak up the sweat while you spar or fight, helping to keep your gloves dry. Hand wraps need to be washed regularly, or they will end up being the cause of the bad smell in your gloves.

4. Keep Your Hands Clean

This should go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway. Wash your hands! Every time you are about to don your gloves, give your hands a thorough wash, and dry them properly. This will keep everyday bacteria and skin oils from making their way into your gloves. If washing your hands is difficult for some reason, or just not convenient, you could choose to carry a bottle of hand sanitizer in your gym bag, and sanitize your hands before putting on your gloves. A disinfectant spray would have a similar effect. There are even some disinfectants and deodorizers that are made for boxing gloves.

How to Clean Your Boxing Gloves

Sadly, no matter how careful you are to look after the hygiene and cleanliness of your boxing gloves, there may come a time when they end up getting smelly anyway. Or maybe you have an old pair of gloves that you’re hoping to revive. Either way, here is a list of useful ways you can clean your boxing gloves once they have already begun to smell bad.

1. Antibacterial Spray

Spraying antibacterial spray into your gloves will kill off any germs and bacteria that are thriving in them, and leave them smelling fresh and clean. This can be done regularly without damaging your gloves, so use this as your go-to cleaning method if you are not managing to keep your gloves clean and dry between sessions.

  1. Unwrap or unlace your gloves
  2. Spray the antibacterial spray into the insides of the gloves
  3. Leave the gloves to dry completely in a well-ventilated area

2. Saltwater Soak

Saltwater is a great natural antibacterial, and will also remove the smell the bacteria produce. Be sure to check what material your gloves are made from, and research if that material can withstand salt water, before using this method to clean your gloves.

  1. Fill a container with salt water. Make sure the container is large enough to fully submerge your gloves in
  2. Submerge your boxing gloves in the salt water overnight
  3. In the morning, remove the gloves from the water, shaking off the excess liquid, and put them in a well-ventilated area to dry completely before storing them

3. Stuff the Gloves

Stuffing is a method that many fighters use, and there are many different ideas of what the gloves can or should be stuffed with. Depending on the stuffing, this method should prevent bacterial growth, or at the very least help keep the gloves dry inside.

  • Stuff your gloves with newspaper or paper towel to keep them dry
  • Stuff them with a simple bar of soap, to discourage bacterial growth
  • Stuff them with dryer sheets – although this will not clean the gloves, or prevent the growth of bacteria, it will mask the smell, and can work as a quick fix
  • Stuff the gloves with glove dogs. This is the most effective method for getting rid of bacteria and their related smells. Glove dogs are small cotton bags full of cedar wood chips, that draw out the bacteria from the gloves, leaving them clean and fresh

4. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a miracle substance with many varied uses. One of these uses is the removal of bacteria and foreign odors from just about anything.

  1. Pour a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar onto your hands or a clean towel
  2. Rub it into the inside of your gloves as thoroughly as possible
  3. Allow the gloves to dry overnight
  4. Repeat in the morning if there is still an odor

5. Baking Soda

Another well-known miracle substance for cleaning, baking soda comes up in just about every cleaning article we’ve seen, from shoes to car windshields. There are two ways you can use baking soda in your gloves, and which one you choose is entirely up to you.

Method 1:

  1. Ensure your gloves are completely dry, with no traces of moisture or warmth
  2. Sprinkle a pinch of baking soda into each glove, and leave it to sit for a few hours, or overnight
  3. Shake the gloves out well, and wipe the inside with a paper towel to remove any remaining baking soda

Method 2:

  1. Wipe the gloves clean and dry with a paper towel, both inside and out
  2. Place approximately equal amounts of baking soda into two socks, tying each one closed at the top
  3. Place one of the socks into each glove, and leave them to sit overnight and absorb the bacteria and their smells
  4. In the morning, remove the socks from the gloves, and enjoy the clean and fresh smell
How to clean boxing gloves and remove the odors.

The Dos and Don’ts

Do:

  • Clean your gloves after every use
  • Store in a cool, dry place
  • Use hand wraps every time

Don’t:

  • Freeze your gloves – this commonly-recommended cleaning option is likely to do more harm than good. The bacteria in your gloves will not be killed off, only made dormant, to rise again once the gloves have thawed out. And any moisture in your gloves will freeze into crystals that could damage the material of your gloves, and will also defrost, to become bacteria-promoting moisture once again
  • Use silica gel in your gloves – this won’t clean them, and could cause damage
  • Leave your gloves in the sun for long periods – a bit of sun drying is good for your gloves, but too much exposure could cause them to crack or shrink
  • Put your gloves in their bag right after a session – we’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Always make sure your gloves are completely dry before storing them in their bag in a cool, dry place.