Every Spartan racer has been there — trying to explain to the hotel staff why they got mud all over the room and why there's a pile of dirty gear in the tub.
“We’ve all dirtied up our share of hotel bathrooms post-obstacle race,” said Yancy Culp, OCR athlete and well-known Spartan SGX coach. In fact, he said, the topic can get pretty funny pretty fast. There’s nothing clean about obstacle races, least of all trying to clean up after.
The dirt and mud have to go somewhere when it comes off your clothes and gear, but you don’t have to incur the wrath of the janitorial staff, or sacrifice your favorite shoes, every race. Try some of these ideas first to learn how to clean your race gear — without making a huge mess.
How to Clean Your Race Gear in 4 Easy Steps
1. Use a Hose — Or a Car Wash — To Eradicate Stubborn Mud
Instead of dirtying up the bathtub, why not sneak around back behind the hotel or Airbnb and find a garden hose instead? That’s what World Champ Amelia Boone’s biggest tip: harness a high-pressure hose. If your hotel or house doesn’t have one, she recommends heading up to the nearest self-serve car wash. You don’t even have to be in a car, just get there quickly, before the mud dries and you're left with a tougher problem.
2. Then, Throw Everything in a Bag (or Two) and Wash It Again
Just like training, it might take you some time to develop a post-race routine that works best for you. It all depends on how quickly you’re headed home and how soon you can fully wash everything. “Dirty gear always makes for an interesting challenge, especially when we’re at races that are away from home,” said Culp.
Newly crowned Spartan World Champion Nicole Mericle dumps all her dirty clothes and gear in a dry bag right after the race — and changes into clean clothes, obviously. Then, as soon as possible, she rinses everything by jumping into the shower with it.
Culp double bags his dirty stuff, washes it all out in the backyard once he’s home, then throws it into the washer.
“Socks especially need to be rinsed before going into the wash,” Mericle said, or all that dirt will just sit in your washing machine and seep into the rest of your laundry. After stuff is rinsed and you’re back home, toss it ALL into the wash — we're talking everything but your shoes (yes, even your hydration pack!).
Once it’s washed, it’s time to dry. But never ever put your gear into the dryer. That can deteriorate your hydration pack seals and the quality performance fabric of your athletic clothes. It works for Mericle. “I’ll have my running packs for years,” she said. She can typically get through a season with just one pair of shoes just for racing, too.
3. The Sooner You Clean Your Gear, The Better
As with so many Spartan things, the key is speed. The longer gear sits wet and dirty in a suitcase, the stinkier they’ll get. Even if you really want to lay on the couch after your race, it’s worth getting up and opening your bag before it gets too late.
You especially don’t want to let your shoes sit around and get moldy. Spray them down with the hose (or jump right into the river after your race and let the water do the washing for you), then let them dry out ASAP. Boone recommends placing your shoes on a dryer rack build for workout kicks, like Peet Shoe Dryers.
A cheaper solution:Remove the insoles if they come out. Then stuff them with newspaper. Once the paper soaks up all the water in your shoes, change it out with more dry newspaper. Repeat until the moisture is completely gone.
4. Don’t Make Cleaning Complicated
Of course, you don’t have to make any of this any more complicated than it has to be. OCR athlete Hunter McIntyre just takes a big bucket and hand washes all his clothes with detergent. “I’m a pretty simple guy,” he said. “It works until it doesn’t.”
The reality is, eventually, you’ll have to get new stuff. “Getting 100 percent of the dirt, clay, stains out of most gear is 100 percent impossible,” said Culp. But you can get 90 percent out, be intentional about it over time, and save yourself expensive trips to the store to replace your gear.