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I am the wife of a varsity and club soccer coach. I am the mother of four select soccer players. I have fought the smell of stinky uniforms, shoes, socks, shinguards and bags for 14+ years. 

I’m sure you have your own stories to tell of sweat, stink and smell. Yes, I have four boys, but the girls and young women athletes are not immune to the distinct smell of effort either! I’ve heard all about the horrible smell of cleats, dance/toe shoes, football pads, hockey gear, knee pads, you name it. Moms talk and share cleaning strategies more than recipe cards. We’re all trying to keep our kids smelling good!

There’s nothing quite like the smell of a ripely used soccer shinguard. It has a distinct smell. Hard to explain, but instantly recognizable. I have decided that it smells like an old rotten bag of burnt corn chips...but worse. 

When I was a younger mom, I enjoyed watching our boys climb into the van, with no regard for the upholstery, eating their weekly after game treat consisting of sugar and more sugar. As they ate their Marshmallow treat or fruit snacks with one hand, they would pry their sweaty cleats and shinguards off with the other. Whoa! Enter the burnt corn chips. I figured I had made it through years of diapers, and I can survive this too. 

I was wrong. One day, either I changed or the chemistry in their bodies changed because the burnt corn chips became unbearable. It was this day that I told the boys and the friends that were carpooling with us, "Put Those Back ON. You may not take your shinguards off in my car!"

From then on, I was on a mission to keep the stink out of my house. First we told the boys to keep their soccer gear out of the main closet because it smelled up all of our coats. We thought we were smart to buy the little air freshener balls to put in their shoes and bags. Those were not strong enough. All gear was moved permanently to the garage. We bought dryer sheets in bulk and stuck those into everything. That did not work.

We thought we had it figured out by stuffing newspapers into the wet shoes to soak up the sweat. That worked but it was not enough. I was told that you could stick things in the freezer and the smell would disappear, but I always wondered where that smell went. Probably into the ice cream. Yuck. Plus we never seem to have time to defrost a pound of chicken, let alone a pair of soccer cleats.

I had an idea. I remembered that some people would put their baseball caps in the dishwasher in order to clean them and not bend the bill. Perfect. We never had any luck putting hard shelled shinguards and size 11 shoes in the washer and dryer, so the dishwasher was my last resort.

I laid four pairs of soccer shoes on the top rack of the dishwasher and four pairs of shinguards on the bottom. It worked like a dream! They came out FRESH and clean!

My girlfriend was a little freaked out, asking how I would put dishes into this same dishwasher after cleaning dirty shoes. I figured my dirty dishes with raw eggs, meat drippings and old food has been cleaned for years by this machine. I can trust it not to transfer salmonella to the next load or to me, so I don’t think any soccer will be left after the sanitized rinse cycle.

You can do your research and decide for yourself, but if you’ve ever been the parent in the drivers seat of the soccer carpool, and that old, rotten, burnt corn chip aroma hits you in the back of the head, you might just do the same thing.


Jacqui Slater

ParentSavvy Blogger

Jacqui is all about her family. She loves being with her husband and four boys and spending time with her large extended family. Jacqui can be found multiple times a week shuttling her younger boys to soccer and cheering all of them on from the sidelines.   ...

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