AdviceGear and kit

How to clean your crash helmet and visor

Care and maintenance tips for crash helmets

Your skid lid is the second most precious thing in your life, after your bike, right?

We’re kidding. Clearly your kids are more important than the thing that you spent hours choosing, even longer saving up for and ultimately may lead to saving our life one day.

Looking after you crash helmet is important, and that starts with the simple stuff, like cleaning it.

Why does your crash helmet smell?

We’ve all been there. As you slide your lid over your forehead you get a slight odour not dissimilar to a wet dog sleeping in a teenager’s laundry pile.

Skin oils, hair product residue and good old fashioned sweat are things you can’t do much about
Here’s a tip: never leave your gloves in your helmet.

You might have noticed that, despite showering your bounce in Tesco’s finest shampoo everyday, you helmet still stinks… The number one culprit for the smell, assuming you aren’t putting your lid on with your hair still wet, is your gloves. All of the oil, dirt, split fuel, hand sweat and more slowly releases a heady mix of odour that permeates into the lining of your helmet.


Cleaning the visor

If you’ve been doing your job properly and riding fast enough then your lid will be covered in various midges and other insects at the end of a blast. When a blood-filled flying object hits your visor at exactly 70mph (officer) it tends to stick. Resist the temptation to wipe it off with your glove – poorly finished stitching or the edge of a protective strip could damage the visor’s screen. Even the most annoying splat will eventually ‘disappear’ from your vision once you corrected your focal point back to the road, specifically your exit point (link to ‘what is the exit point?’).


Non-organic glass cleaners contain ammonia which are know to reduce the shatter-proof qualities of polycarbonate, the material used for most visors.


Tempting as it might be… The chemicals used in car screen wash are designed for use on glass, not plastic that could be easily damaged by the harsh acids.

Use either a proprietary cleaning product (link) or very mild soapy water. If using the latter, soak some kitchen towel in the water and then spread it over the visor, leaving it on there for 5-10 minutes. This will allow the dirt, midges etc to soak into the paper and will make it easier to wipe them off.


Gently wipe it with a damp soft cloth. If you have a particularly sticky mark, keep using the spray/mild mix – patience and repetition are the answer. Don’t be tempted to scratch at the thing with a finger nail. If you do mark the helmet, you’ll be living with that scratch until you can afford another £30-50 visor…


Cleaning the outer shell

Those pesky midges and other bits of detritus will be stuck to the (usually) shiny part of your lid too. Some of us love the look, because it signifies actually getting out there and blasting around on the bike.

Get them off. The amino acids and enzymes they contain will corrode the lacquer leaving it pitted if left long enough.

After a ride, wipe down your lid following the helmet manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. If you’ve lost the booklet that came with the lid, then check their website.

You’ll find that, to protect the paintwork, most brands recommend using a specialist cleaning product. Again, like visors, you need to avoid products that contain polycarbonate-weakening ammonia. Most of the budget helmets use polycarbonate for the outer shell construction. You also need to avoid petroleum distillate too, as it can have a detrimental effect on the finish of your helmet. This means degreasers that you may have used when cleaning your bike aren’t suitable for your helmet.

If you’ve run out of specialist cleaner, or don’t feel the cost is necessary, then you can use water with a very small amount of washing liquid – the reason for going for a specialist product is they are formulated to use the correct chemicals to protect the paint and any glues, sealants and resins that may be used on the shell and visor. With a washing liquid, you don’t really know what chemicals they use – unless you’re a chemist of course!

As you clean, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for small chips and cracks in the paintwork – signs that the helmet might be damaged.

Cleaning the helmet lining

Again there are specialist cleaning products and again you can use mild soapy water. You should remember that the lining sits next to your skin and gently rubs it constantly, so use a detergent that is preferably PH-balanced.

It’s far better to lightly spray the material and then gently dab at the lining with a sponge or cloth – not scrubbing as that could damage it. If you are persistent enough, even stubborn stains with come out with the dabbing technique.

Some liners can be put in the washing machine on a gentle cycle, using clothing washing liquid. A net bag will help prevent the lining becoming damaged.

Let the linings dry naturally, not using a heat source that could affect the foam inside the cheek pads. If it’s mid winter and you need the helmet for the morning, either put the linings in the airing cupboard or near, but not on, a radiator. Do not put them in a tumble dryer. Do not put them in the microwave or the oven…


Non-removable lining

What if you have an open face helmet or a budget-level full face helmet, where the lining isn’t removable?

Fill a large container with warm water and add a small amount mild detergent. Completely immerse the helmet in the water and with a cloth gently rub the cloth areas. Do not rub too hard.

Once you have the lining clean the water is likely to be very dirty. Replace it and soak the helmet again to rinse out the detergent. You may have to repeat this as few times to completely remove the detergent (there should be no bubbles when you gently press down on a padded area).

Set the helmet aside to dry naturally, away from any significant heat sources. To speed things up you could point an air fan, on a gentle non-heat, setting at the inside of the helmet. If you work in a large, don’t use a compressed airline to dry the lining – you could damage the helmet’s protective lining.

We think that covers it but if you have any other great tips then send them over to [email protected]

How to get yourself sorted:

A small bottle of spray can be kept on the bike. Wrap kitchen towel paper around it, held in place with a tie wrap or elastic band, and you’ll have an on-the-road cleaning kit for the worse visor bandits.

More helmet advice

How to buy a crash helmet
Checking your helmet for damage


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The Author

Sue Denim

Sue Denim

International woman of mystery, bike nut and in her words, 'If it's worth riding, babes, I'll ride it.' Well put.

Sue likes to keep a low profile as she has another day job...