Gear Care 101: How to Clean a Motorcycle Helmet
Your helmet lives a tough life.
It’s constantly being attacked by bugs, getting coughed in, sneezed on, absorbing sweat, inhaling exhaust fumes… you name it, your poor helmet goes through it every time you go for a ride.
We think it’s high time you made amends and learned how to clean your motorcycle helmet properly. In this article, we’ll show you how to treat your brain bucket to a well-deserved spa day with a deep clean from the inside out.
Prep Work: Gather Your Cleaning Materials
Before we can start scrubbing, we need to do a little prep work here.
The list is simple, but the main thing you’ll want to remember is that chemicals and powerful cleaning products are a serious no-no when it comes to your motorcycle helmet.
With the exception of your cheek pads, most of your helmet should simply be cleaned with warm water and clean towels, so some of the items here will be optional as you’ll read below.
It seems like you can never own too many microfiber towels as a motorcycle owner. If you’ve already got a treasure trove of microfibers in the garage, you should be good to go, just make sure they’re clean to avoid damaging your helmet’s finish. If you’re running low, pick up an economy pack of the larger 16-inch size to make the job easier.
If your pads are safe to clean with a mild soap or detergent, it will help tremendously in breaking down any accumulated sweat, oil, sunscreen, or hair products that can build up on the pads over time. The go-to cleaner for most riders is usually baby shampoo, but mild dish soap is safe to use on most pads as well.
Cotton swabs are good to have on hand for getting into hard-to-reach areas like helmet vents where dirt and debris like to hang out. A soft-bristled toothbrush is handy here too, but you’ll probably want to avoid sharing your personal toothbrush with your helmet to keep the bugs out of your teeth.
Natural Carnauba Wax
This one is optional, but is great to use for cleaning and polishing your helmet visor. Natural carnauba wax is safe for use on all visors and finishes because it’s non-abrasive.
Waxing your visor also has the added bonus of making it water repellent to keep your shield clear if you get caught in the rain, and also reduces fogging on the lens.
We like S100 Paste Wax for its high-quality formula and ease of application.
Lesson 1: How to Disassemble Your Motorcycle Helmet
A quick mist and wipe down with water and a microfiber towel is fine in-between rides, but once or twice every riding season, we need to take the helmet apart to get a real deep clean.
That means both removing the interior cheek pads and liners inside your helmet, as well as the face shield and any other removable exterior elements like sun visors on dirt bike or dual-sport helmets.
If you’ve never taken the face shield off your helmet before, it’s always a good idea to consult your owner’s manual to make sure you’re familiar with the procedure.
Some face shields are trickier than others to remove and using any undue force to pull them off can leave you with a broken tab and waiting on replacement parts.
If you haven’t already, now would also be a good time to remove any electronics from your helmet, like Bluetooth headsets, that you’d prefer not to get wet.
Lesson 2: How to Clean Your Helmet Face Pads and Liners
Once you’ve got your helmet taken apart, the first part you’ll want to clean will be the interior cheek pads and liners.
To clean the cheek pads, fill a large container with warm water and a small amount of baby shampoo or mild dish soap.
Submerge the pads completely in the water, and then squeeze them gently to soak up the mixture like a sponge. Repeat this process a few times to ensure you get as much of the sweat and oil buildup out of the pads as you can, then rinse them with clean water and set them aside to air dry.
Unlike the cheek pads of your helmet, the liner should never be submerged in water. To clean your helmet liner, you’ll just want to wipe it down with a damp microfiber towel as best you can without soaking it, then set it aside to dry as well before moving on to the next step.
Disclaimer: While most interior helmet pads can be washed with the warm water and mild detergent mixture we describe here, some helmets/manufacturers like Arai and their Corsair-X line specifically require WARM WATER ONLY to protect the integrated EPS liners in their padding. Always consult your owner’s manual before using any cleaning product with your helmet.
Lesson 3: How to Clean the Outside of a Motorcycle Helmet
While your cheek pads and liner are air drying, you’ll have plenty of time to clean and detail the exterior of your motorcycle helmet.
Warm water in a spray bottle should take care of 99% of your typical helmet dirt and grime.
For really stubborn gunk, drape a moist, warm microfiber towel over the helmet for a few minutes to “steam” and loosen up any grime on the surface. After the towel has had time to do its thing, everything underneath should come right off with a simple spray and wipe.
Once your exterior shell is clean and polished to your liking, it’s time to do some detailing.
Take your cotton swabs and/or toothbrush and work your way into the exterior vents around the helmet. You can also take a cotton swab to the vents from the interior of the helmet while you’ve got the pads off to help work out any bugs or other obstructions that might not be reachable from the outside.
Lesson 4: How to Clean Your Motorcycle Face Shield
Because our face shields are often treated with a special coating for clarity and UV resistance, we want to avoid using harsh chemicals on them as well.
Stick with the soap and warm water, preferably in a spray bottle, and just mist and wipe a few times until your shield is clean. Again, if it has gotten really dirty, you can use the towel-steaming method described above.
Once your shield is clean, you’ll have the option of giving it a once over with the carnauba wax described above and a clean microfiber.
You don’t have to do this, but it will leave your vision with some extra shine, will help keep it from fogging up, and will repel water much better, which is great when you get caught out in the rain.
Final Thoughts: Show Your Motorcycle Helmet Some Love
Learning how to clean a motorcycle helmet is a skill you’ll enjoy for the rest of your life.
In addition to keeping your most important gear from getting seriously funky, regularly cleaning your helmet will help extend the life of its padding and finishes, which is a big deal considering how much we spend in our helmets and how much we value the brains they protect.
So do your helmet a favor and give it a well-deserved wash before your next ride. Your brain (and nose) will thank you. And don’t forget to give your motorcycle a good scrub as well!
For more tips, check out the Grypmat motorcycle blog.