Motorcycle Helmet Care And Cleaning 101

Tips to keep your motorcycle helmet looking and smelling good

When Positive Force sang, “We got the funk, we got the funk, yeah!” people would get sweaty, go wild and dance their butts off. But when your motorcycle helmet has got the funk, the only thing you need to do is clean that baby and make sure that smell is a one-hit wonder, just like PF’s tune.

This isn't the seventies, people. Our modern helmets are equipped with removable liners, absorbent padding, and shells that are constructed of high tech polymer materials. Let's take a little look at how easy it is to care for this most important piece of protective gear.

Motorcycle Helmet Cleaning Tips

First, we will take a look at some ways to care for and clean the interior of your helmet. In most cases, the liners can be removed and washed either by hand or in a washing machine using cold water. As part of basic liner care, both Shoei and Arai recommend using a damp cloth with a mild cleaner like baby shampoo to remove the residual oils from the liner panels. If you wear hair products, makeup or you are a sweaty type of human, this is important because it keeps the funk from building up over time and becoming even more difficult to get rid of.

Helmet Fresh Spray Cleaner
Helmet FreshCourtesy of the manufacturer

You can mist your liner with a product like Helmet Fresh and then wipe it down as well. This stuff has been a staple of my helmet care regimen for decades and I can say without a doubt that it works great.

All manufacturers recommend that to avoid putting pads back in the helmet until they are completely dry. They also warn not to put them in a dryer as it can break down the pads impact absorbing ability. This is also true for the EPS (Styrofoam) liner. Simply wipe down the interior gently so that you don’t compress it. Do not saturate it with water either, and once you are finished, simply allow it to air dry. Arai warns specifically to avoid drying your helmet near a heat source like a fireplace or space heater as it may cause the EPS to deteriorate.

You never want to submerge your helmet in the bathtub, stick it in the dishwasher or anything foolish like that because the EPS liner can become waterlogged and a dishwasher will get hot enough to melt it. There are no shortcuts, just take the time and do it right.

Helmet cleaner
Plexus Spray CleanerCourtesy of the manufacturer

The exterior consists of two primary pieces: The shell and the visor. We typically clean the visor when it’s attached to the helmet and that’s OK for quick cleaning but it’s nice to get the bug guts and road grime out from under the fasteners and visor mechanisms. Some visors are easy to remove, some are not – pay close attention to the instructions and avoid forcing it – you will inevitably break a small part and your ride day will be ruined.

Use Plexus to remove the bug wax and splatter from your visor in most cases. It always works and as long as you don't scrub too vigorously on the gunk and be sure to use a soft microfiber towel your visor should not be easily scratched. The big manufacturers warn us to avoid using most dish soaps on visors, especially those with a reflective or colored coating as it can cause the shiny stuff to come off.

Microfiber towels
Kirkland Signature Ultra High Pile Premium Microfiber TowelsCourtesy of the manufacturer

Plexus is great for cleaning the exterior of the helmet as well. It leaves a nice shine and makes it easier to get gooey guts off after it’s been applied. If you have debris in the vents, use a toothbrush or cotton swab to get into those hard to reach crevices. Again, don’t blast it with a hose or anything like that. It’s a meticulous chore so relax and just do it the right way.

Motorcycle Care & Storage

Every helmet worth its salt will come with a storage bag from the factory. Always keep your helmet inside this bag because it reduces the exposure to the elements, protects it from scratches and dings and if you store it in the garage it should keep the bugs out too.

You can go a step further and get an aftermarket helmet carry case because it provides all that protection while it allows you to carry your lid the proper way. Arai actually recommends that we do NOT use the chin bar to carry our helmet around. Instead, the legendary brand says we should clasp the D-rings together and carry it by the straps if we do not have a carry case.

Helmet bag
Ogio Head Case Helmet Moto BagCourtesy of the manufacturer

When you store your helmet it is a good idea to keep it out of the main riding gear bag. Most MX riders and track day junkies tend to stick their helmet in the bag with their musky leathers, dirty socks and sweaty gloves. In fact, I see folks stick their nasty gloves inside their helmet all the time. This is a very bad idea because it will allow the funk permeate deep into the components of your helmet. Treat your lid as the valuable commodity it is. Store it on a shelf or at least in a something like an OGIO Stealth helmet bag so it is not exposed to the rest of your nasty riding gear.

It may seem like most of this info is just common sense, but it’s always a good idea to be reminded how to do things the right way. When you do it right and perform even a wee-bit of regular maintenance on your helmet after each ride you will keep the funk from taking over. I hope a few of you might even go dig your crusty moto gloves out of your poor helmet right after you read this piece.