While a hockey jersey can take a lot of abuse on the ice, you will need to wash it in the gentle cycle to keep it looking its best. Because most jerseys are made of double knit polyester to keep players light and cool, there is a risk of color bleed when washing a jersey.
If your team jersey has light and strong colors combined in the construction, cold water is a must.
Separate with Care
Brightly colored jerseys should never be washed with new jeans; the jersey will grey out with the addition of denim blue fabric dye. They should never be washed with white clothes; you’ll stain all your socks and underwear pink with one red jersey.
Lightweight knit jerseys should be washed on the gentle/delicate cycle once they’ve been treated for stains and turned inside out. Avoid washing any lightweight polyester garments with anything that has an open zipper.
The zipper will act as a saw, tearing up your polyester garments as the laundry agitates.
Pre-treat stains by turning the jersey inside out and flushing the spot with water. Whether you had a nosebleed on the ice or wore your favorite team jersey to a party and spilled chip dip on it, a cold water flush is your best start.
Stopper the sink and place the jersey in cold water so you can add a little friction by rubbing the fabric from the inside out.
Finally, add a bit of a degreasing soap to break up the proteins in the blood or the fat in the chip dip and work up a good lather. Rinse from the back one more time before washing in a washing machine.
Treat for Odors
The polyester weave of many jerseys is designed to wick away sweat, but odors can be captured in the fabric, particularly in the seams under the arms where the fabric is compressed.
Before you experiment with color-safe bleach products, add 1 cup of vinegar to the washing machine when you add your laundry soap.
When you pull the jersey out of the washer, you may notice a slight vinegar aroma. Keep the jersey inside out and slip it on a clothes hanger. Hang the jersey in the sun.
As the shoulders dry, use clothespins to pin the end of the arms to the shoulders, opening up the underarm of the jersey to sunlight and fresh air. Once dry, both the sweat aroma and the vinegar smell should be gone.
Another option is to use essential oils. The goal with this step is not to add fragrance to the shirt, but to kill the bacteria that are living in the fabric and creating the odor. A drop or two of tea tree oil in your wash cycle can do this easily.
You can also use tea tree oil in a freshening spray before you wash the garment. Combine 2 cups hot water, 1 tbsp baking soda, and up to 10 drops of essential oil in a spray bottle.
For those who want to avoid a perfumed smell, try 5 drops of tea tree oil and just 3 drops of citrus, cedar, or evergreen oil to start. Apply this only to the underarm seams and let it dry so the tea tree oil can go to work on the bacteria.
Protect the Numbers
The numbers on your hockey jersey can handle washing in cold water, but hot water is a threat to these appliques. High temperatures in the washer and dryer damage sports jerseys in several ways.
First of all, hot water can make the numbers a bit sticky as they warm up. Because you’re washing your jersey inside out, this can mean that the numbers on the front and the back stick together, creating small cracks in the applique.
The agitation of the washing machine further abrades the applique.
Once these tiny cracks and stickiness are working on the numbers, we put the garment in the dryer. This drying process leads to gaps between the garment and the applique, where the numbers and logo will actually pull away from the garment.
These regions become fragile over time and will start to break down and peel off the fabric in bigger chunks.
Dry with Great Care
If at all possible, air-dry your jersey. Leave it turned inside out and put it on a hanger. If you can hang it outdoors and in the sun, you will kill even more odor-causing bacteria. If you have to hang in on a hanger in the bathroom or in a closet, put a fan on it to avoid mildew.
Depending on where your clothesline is, you may find that you spend a lot of time chasing the hanger across the lawn. Replace part of the clothesline with a section of chain with loops big enough to accommodate the hanger hooks.
This is also a great way to dry button-front shirts if you don’t like to iron; simply button them on the hanger and let them air dry flat.