Gloves maintenance is one of the most overlooked aspects of pugilistic martial arts. A sanitised pair of gloves will reduce the probability of skin irritations/infections on your hands. If you take good care of your gloves, they will serve you well instead of being retired prematurely. Most importantly, your gloves will smell fresh clean instead of a sewage-stinky feet-blue cheese rotten stench.
Why Do Your Gloves Stink
The stench from stinky gloves is the odor of bacteria breeding. Your gloves are a perfect bacterial breeding ground since you will be sweating a lot at each Muay Thai or boxing training and moisture promotes bacteria growth.
If you have not been airing your gloves after training, they will be stinking to high hell in no time. Sometimes, the odor can be so bad that people around you can actually smell it too. Trust me, they are just too polite to tell you.
How to Keep Your Gloves Clean and Odor-Free
I sweat about as much as the common folk at the gym and train 4 times a week. With the simple cleaning and maintenance guidelines as given below, my gloves served me more than a year. They might have lasted even longer but I decided to ditch them only because I received a free pair from my gym when I renewed my membership. There was no cracking (just wrinkling) of the leather, the padding still provided sufficient protection and there wasn’t any hint of obnoxious odor.
Here are some tips on keeping your gloves clean and smelling fresh:
Besides providing support for your hands, handwraps will soak up some of the sweat while you train. Since they absorb a good percentage of your perspiration, you will notice that they start to stink fairly rapidly, usually within a few days of training. If you insist on NOT washing your handwraps, the odor will quickly seep into and stink up your gloves. It is thus recommended to wash your handwraps after every training or at the maximum, after 2 training sessions. (For more on handwraps, read this article)
Clean Right After Training
As soon as your training ends, use a slightly damp cloth to give the exterior of the gloves a wipe as sweat can cause stains on the leather. There are hair dryers at our gym’s shower room and I usually use a hair dryer -set at high cool- to blow into the gloves for a couple of minutes. Alternatively, you can use a dry hand towel and give the interior a quick wipe to briefly absorb the moisture. Even if you don’t intend to clean your gloves when you get home, these preliminary actions can go a long way in keeping your gloves dryer and smelling fresher than if you do nothing about it. Also try to keep your gloves separate from your damp workout clothes by keeping clothes in a laundry bag.
Do NOT Leave Your Gloves in Your Bag Overnight
When you get home, you should take them out of your gym bag to air. If you leave them in the bag overnight, and you keep doing this after each training, your gloves will start to stink in no time. So take them out of the bag even if you don’t plan to clean them immediately.
Using an absorbent cloth is one of the best and yet simplest methods of keeping your gloves odor-free. Clearly, the more absorbent the cloth, the better it is to absorb moisture.
Microfiber towels are very absorbent and I use them for cleaning the interior of my gloves. Make sure to reach deep into the fingers and thumb compartment to remove as much moisture as possible.
If your gloves are already starting to smell, you can try to use a disinfectant/deodorizer meant for athletic equipment. Go for one that is made with organic essential oils rather than harsh chemicals which can damage your gloves. Disinfectant sprays will kill most odor-causing bacteria and fungi and help eliminate -or at least minimize- the funky smells. This shoe spray by Lumi Sports works just as well for gloves and most importantly, it is made of nautral essential oils. I give my gloves a spray once every 2 weeks to keep them smelling fresh.
Keep Your Gloves Dry
Even if you don’t clean your gloves, you should still them dry out whenever you can. You can stuff some newspapers into your gloves and leave them for about 2 hours to absorb any residual moisture. You can also use the hairdryer again to blow it into the gloves for about 10 minutes. Remember to set to high cool as excess heat may damage the gloves. Thereafter, keep them in a dry, cool environment away from the sun such a temperature-controlled room.
|The Gloves Deodorizer
If there is already a hint of foulness coming from your gloves, fear not, because I know the perfect hack for you. Through the website’s readers, I got to know about the Meister Nunchuck gloves deodorizer. An affordable and effective solution for glove stench. It absorbs moisture and leaves an aromatic scent in your gloves. This highly popular device is a must-have.
Gloves Cleaning and Maintenance Miscellany
There are many other methods of cleaning and storing Muay Thai gloves. Some work and some don’t. Let’s check out some of them:
Washing Machine and Dryer
Keep your gloves out of the washing machine and dryer! The problem with washing your gloves is that your gloves will get loaded with so much moisture that it will take ages for it to dry completely. Before they even dry, mould and bacteria would have found an ideal breeding playground and that’s how you get the musty smell with indoor drying. As for the dryer, while the high heat can most certainly kill bacteria, the dryness will cause the leather to crack which will lead to disintegration very quickly. In short, washing machine and dryer = Big NO!
The Problem with Silica Gel
While you can reduce the incidence of mould inside your gloves with silica gel, the humidity level might be so low that it causes the leather to dry and crack. It is difficult to determine how long or how much to leave the silica gel inside your gloves. Personally, I would not lose sleep or crack my head performing science experiments over a pair of 80 dollars gloves.
There are dry cabinets where you might be able to set the humidity level but it seems like a bit of an overkill.
The Freezing Myth
One of the stranger practice recommended -in the forums- to eliminate odors is to freeze your gloves. Freezing your gloves is often believed to kill bacteria/fungi that causes the odor in your gloves. After cross-referencing several scientific sources on the web, this is what I found: Although freezing can kill some of the bacteria (this needs to be done at very low temperature close to 2°F or -16°C), the remaining bacteria are put in a dormant state. That’s to say that bacteria stops growing in the freezer. As soon as they are out of the freezer and are warmed up, they become active again. In conclusion, this is not a foolproof method and for all that effort, doesn’t seem to be worth trying either.
A popular recommendation is putting equipment out in the sun for about 30 minutes after training. This is a very common practice in many Thai gyms and it works to a certain degree. However, the downside is that prolonged exposure to direct sunlight might cause the leather to deteriorate and crack faster.
Best Muay Thai Gloves for Sweaty Hands
The right kind of gloves can go a long way, especially for people with sweaty hands. Besides offering high durability, there are a few brands that offer gloves with better ventilation systems which facilitates faster drying.
If you have severely sweaty hands, you might want to consider getting yourself a pair. These gloves typically have mesh in the underside or antimicrobial interior to help minimize odors. For gloves recommendations, see our review artice: “Breathable Boxing Gloves“.
Best Gym Bags for Muay Thai
Some gym bags are constructed such that they allow for more ventilation. Bags made with partially or entirely out of mesh material are recommended. Mesh will allow your damp gear to air and dry out so if you forgot to take your gloves out of the bag, at least there is some ventilation in the bag.
Alternatively, there are also drawstring bags made with a mesh on the front that can help ventilate your moist gloves and hand towel after training. For more gym bag recommendations, see our bag review article: “Best Gym Bag for Muay Thai”.
Gloves maintenance is not a science examination: You don’t have to overthink it. Just leaving your gloves out to air in the open and wiping the exterior of the gloves is usually sufficient to leave them smelling fresh. If you make the effort to perform additional maintenance outlined above, you won’t ever have to worry about unsavory smells. Simply take a few minutes after you train to do some cleaning and maintenance. This will ensure that you max out the lifespan of your gloves. Train hard, train fresh.