Fencing Newbie: How do I wash my fencing gear?

So not only do you know all the names of the parts of fencing gear–practice and competition–but now you’ve taken the step of buying your own. Yay! No more sweaty, stinky club masks and plastrons!

Your practice whites–jacket, plastron, glove–are easy to keep clean. Just throw them in the washing machine with whatever laundry detergent you normally use. You can even toss them in with other clothes, just make sure that nothing will bleed color onto your jacket. It’s embarrassing to show up to practice with pink splotches all over it. I usually wash mine on the warm/cold regular cycle. Make sure to AIR DRY them all. Putting your practice gear in the dryer will shorten their lifespan and may actually make them unsafe to use. The dryer is hard on the fabric and can wear it thin pretty quickly. Thin jacket or plastron fabric = danger at practice.

Competition gear is another matter entirely. Lames, masks, and cuffs need to be washed more gently or the metal fibers in the fabric break and create dead spots, making them unusable for a tournament. Wash your lame and cuff in the kitchen sink by adding equal amounts of Windex and Woolite to lukewarm water. Let them sit in the water for 10-15 minutes. Rinse them well in another lukewarm bath, then remove most of the water by rolling them between two towels. Air dry.

Here’s a video to show you how to wash your lame: 

Your mask can be washed using the same “sink technique”. It’s harder to get the water out of it, but you’ll need to blot it dry with towels, then air dry. I wash my gear often in the summer–the Texas heat dries everything in less than two hours. In cooler weather, count on everything drying in about 24 hours.

I have heard that you can wash your mask in the dishwasher but have never been brave enough to give it a try. Has anyone done that? Did it work?

11 thoughts on “Fencing Newbie: How do I wash my fencing gear?

  1. I washed one mask in the dishwasher – at the next tournament, which was a few weeks later, it was dead. I don’t know if this is a true measure of how this method of cleaning is effective or not effective OR if fencer’s mask was just dead from the get go (probably the better assumption). Since getting a mask that has removable inside parts, these parts get washed the same way shown in the above video along with the lame. I read somewhere else to not line dry lames in direct sunlight, so fencer’s lame is hung in the laundry room or clothes line in the garage away from the bright sunshine.


  2. I fence out of the Fencers Club in NYC. Some of my team mates have done the dishwasher route. My coach swears by it. I haven’t tried it – mainly because I have flag decals that I don’t want to come of (military Veteran team). I may have to bite the bullet, because my mask is starting to look like it needs a bath. ☺


  3. I’m with the 3MB club in Beverly, MA. I’ve done the dishwasher route with epee masks several times, being careful not to run it all the way through the drying cycle, and with no soap. I usually give the mask a detergent pre-wash by hand on the inside bits, including the bib. Works very well for getting the mask clean. I’ve never tried this with an electrical mask, and I’d be a little hesitant to do so. Foil, maybe. For sabre, the connection point between the mask and bib would concern me.


  4. I know a lot of people swear by Woolite and similar detergents, but I have had lames last 5+ years with a simpler method. Just water. Rinse it weekly in warmish water and after every tournament then towel and hang dry. Toweling is dependent on climate, dry areas need not apply. Same deal with masks, though I will sometimes use detergent or stain remover on non-lame address. Hot water is NOT good for a mask because of the glue used on some.


  5. Kate, this approach for washing lames is appropriate for the conventional lame material. For the lightweight lame material, I’d suggest following the Leon Paul washing instructions on their website. In a nutshell, cold water, no detergent, lots of rinsing.


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