Time to wash it

Over time, and many bouts of use, you may notice that your fencing mask has a bit of a stench to it. It’s time to figure out how to clean your mask, or to plug up your nose while fencing!

All fencing gear gets sweaty, but a fencing mask isn’t something that you can just toss into the washing machine. There are a number of ways to clean a mask, ranging from hand washing in a bucket of soapy water to running it through the dishwasher (switch off the drying cycle).

I prefer to hand wash fencing masks as there’s less to go wrong compared to using a dishwasher.

Here are some basic steps that I posted to reddit sometime ago:

Steps to cleaning your fencing mask:

  • Get a 5 gallon bucket.
  • Fill halfway with warm soapy water.
  • Dunk the mask in it several times. …
  • Dispose of soapy water, fill bucket with clean water.
  • Dunk mask and squeeze out the bib to get the soaps out.
  • Once soap is out, squeeze out as much water as you can, towel dry everything, dry out the mask.
fencing mask cleaning
This mask fits nicely in a Lowes 5 gal bucket

I hang the mask up in the bathroom to finish drying out.

If you have a fencing mask with a removable interior lining, then you can cut down on the number of times you need to wash the full mask. Just take the lining out, and throw it in the wash with your fencing uniform. That makes the equipment maintenance easier.

For saber and foil masks, you need to take care to use soaps that are not going to damage the lame material. That means to stay away from products like OxyClean. Woolite has been my go-to for cleaning lame material for years. Just a small amount does all you need cleaning a single lame or mask.

hang drying a fencing mask
hang drying a mask

Some fencers have said that they wash their masks in the dishwasher and here are the collective steps if you want to go that route:

Cleaning a Fencing Mask in the Dishwasher:

  • Remove any detatchable padding and mask strap
  • Add cleaning agent (in this case just baking soda, or maybe a little Woolite)
  • Set dishwasher to cycle without heated dry
  • Wait for an hour or so for the cycle to end
  • Squeeze out bib of mask, hang it in the laundry area or bathroom to dry

What I don’t like about this is that if the washer heats up it could end up melting the glue that holds parts of the mask together. For lower grade masks you can accelerate damage to the insulation on the mask mesh. I still recommend manual cleaning over the dishwasher method. The manual method is a bit quicker and less risky.