Fencing equipment both lasts a lot longer and smells considerably better when you know how to wash and maintain it correctly.
BUT it’s important to emphasize “correctly” in that sentence, because if you try to wash it the wrong way, this can quickly break your fencing gear.
Firstly, it’s important to note that fencing gear lasts best when you hang it up to dry completely after using it.
Leaving your fencing jacket crumpled in a bag somewhere after training will quickly lead to mold and wear it out faster.
Whenever you’re done training, try to hand your gear up to air dry as quickly as you can.
Aside from that, here are a few general rules of thumb to remember about the washing process:
- Do not use bleach to clean your equipment – it will degrade the protective strength of the suit over time. Remember that this is safety equipment!
- Don’t use a drying machine/heat.
- When in doubt about a piece of equipment, gently hand washing with soap and water is safe.
To start with, let’s cover how to wash the different parts of the fencing suit – the plastron, jacket, and pants:
These are actually the most straightforward pieces to wash. You can put these into your washing machine on a cold, gentle setting, or hand wash them.
They’ll also come with washing instructions on the tags with more specifics for your gear.
When doing this, make sure to use a bleach-free detergent, as bleach will break down the protection offered by the gear.
Once they are washed, these pieces should be hung out to air dry. Don’t put them into a drying machine or tumble dry them.
The other important consideration to remember is to not hang these pieces up to dry in sunlight, as the UV light will break down the protection over time just like the bleach.
The Lamé (For Foil And Saber Fencers)
This needs a slightly more involved process to wash than the fencing whites, as it’s imperative the lamé remain sufficiently electrically conductive to work.
Firstly once again the lamé will last you much longer if you hang it up neatly after use, as bending or folding/crumpling it will create “dead spots” where it won’t register hits properly.
That means hand washing gently with some soap and warm water, or if you want to go without soap, steaming the lamé in the shower.
It should then be hung up to gradually dry – in this case at least you can hang it up in the sun, as it’s not protective equipment.
For a video follow-along example of how exactly to wash your lamé, you can check the YouTube link below by experienced USA national armorer Sam Signorelli:
Since the cloth part of the mask (the part that really needs the washing) is connected to the mesh, this can be a tricky one to wash too.
First of all, I should mention that if you have a Leon Paul exchange mask, it’s designed to come apart so the cloth parts of the mask can be washed in the washing machine.
This specific kind of mask will look like the picture below:
You can get it on the Leon Paul website if interested. This mask is much more expensive than a standard mask, but the washing feature is nice.
For a standard mask, you can either hand wash it similarly to the lamé (for foil masks there will be a section of lamé material on the bib) with warm water or you can use your dishwasher with the dry setting turned off.
If you can’t turn off the dry cycle, you can try to time it, or just go with hand washing – heat drying always damages fencing gear.
Once again Sam Signorelli gives his overview of cleaning a mask in his video, his channel is very reputable and one of the best online resources to check for armory and gear maintenance:
The materials different types of fencing gloves are made out of can vary quite considerably, so the first thing to do is always check the tag from the manufacturer.
By and large, they fall into the same category as the pants, plastron and jacket. It’s best to wash it as little as you can though, as gloves will wear out very very quickly.
If you can get your glove dried out by leaving it in a hot press or similar method after finishing fencing training, this can help to keep it in usable condition for longer as you can get away with washing it less often.
The Other Pieces
Things such as socks, your undershirt, shoes and so on don’t really need any specific approach, they can just be washed like any other socks.
As for the non-cloth gear like the blades and the wires, they should be kept dry to avoid rusting. This includes keeping them apart from any sweaty jackets as much as possible.
If your weapon does develop rust, some light sanding with some not-very-rough sandpaper should be enough to get them back to a shiny finish.
Wires should also be wrapped up and not left tangled or twisted, as they will break faster if you do that.
There are some very specific steps and rules it’s best for you to follow when washing your fencing clothes.
This is so they last long and to reduce wear and tear, although the details can be a bit overwhelming if you’ve never done it before.
Just going step by step and not rushing things is the best approach, as once you’ve washed your gear right the first time, it quickly becomes easier to remember the steps.
In the long run, this will keep your gear in good condition and help it to last years longer (and smell much better).
Remember that you can always ask any coaches, armorers, or more experienced fencers at your place of training how they go about washing and maintaining their fencing equipment if you’re not quite sure of what to do.
These people will have picked up tips and tricks and can tell you what’s worked best for them over their years of doing the sport.