Tips to clean and disinfect your motorcycle gear to protect from germs, bacteria, and virus

By now, news about the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) should've reached you. As of March 12, 2020, over 135,000 cases have been confirmed in more than 120 countries and territories, with major outbreaks in mainland China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran. Close to 5,000 people have died from the disease but more than 70,000 have recovered. You're likely aware that the whole of Metro Manila will be under the “community quarantine” starting Sunday, March 15 at 12 midnight.

Perhaps, some riders still think that, since we do not usually mingle in crowded areas like mass transport terminals or malls, we are immune to the dreaded virus. Health experts, particularly the World Health Organization (WHO), has recommended social distancing since the COVID-19 was found to be transmitted via droplets (through coughing or sneezing) from an infected person.

So as motorcycles riders, how can we keep ourselves safe from COVID-19?

Stay at home

The best thing to do to fight COVID-19 is to avoid it altogether by staying at home. Yes, as lonely as it may sound, not riding and staying at home reduces the risk of coming into contact with an infected person. Also, it reduces the risk of further spreading the virus to other people. How? Say your motorcycle group decides to ride to a locality one weekend, if one of us motorcycle riders unknowingly happens to be a carrier of the virus, we run the risk of spreading it to that community, or among our fellow riders.

If it can't be helped, or if riding your motorcycle is part of your livelihood as a partner rider for a motorcycle taxi or courier company, below are some suggested tips to keep your riding gear and yourself from getting infected:

COVID-19: Protect yourself and your gear image

Good hygiene

Always maintain good hygiene. This includes frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before rinsing off. If soap and water is not readily available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol by volume is a good sanitizing alternative, until you can get access to soap and water. Health experts also advise avoiding touching your eyes, nose, mouth or your whole face in general with unwashed hands, especially right after handling money or being in a crowded area.

Disinfecting 101: Protect yourself and your gear image Care instructions found inside a leather riding jacket.

Wash gear regularly

As for riding gear, it is suggested to wash it regularly to avoid germ build-up. For example, alternate between 2 pairs of motorcycle gloves so that you can have a pair to use while the other is in the washbin. This goes the same for helmets. As much as possible, wash the inner liner of your helmet regularly. If a spare helmet is not available, there are various sprays specifically for disinfecting a helmet (available online or in select motorcycle shops). Avoid spraying your helmet with petroleum-based cleaning products as it may destroy the EPS foam inside your helmet, effectively reducing its impact-absorption capabilities. The outer shell can be cleaned with a mild cleaning solution of soap and water with a soft cloth. You can also follow the Department of Health's (DOH) recommendation for making a bleach solution (Do not drink the bleach) to wash with.

COVID-19: Protect yourself and your gear image

To wash your riding gear — gloves, balaclava, riding jacket, etc. — all you need is just regular laundry detergent, a washtub (batya), and warm water. To be safe, follow what's indicated on your riding gear's washing or cleaning instructions (white tab on the inside). Most riding gear should not be machine washed (hand wash only) as it might remove the water-repellant coating as well as the reflective strips on some of its parts.

Washing gear

For those unfamiliar, here are the steps.

Disinfecting 101: Protect yourself and your gear image

Remove the padding 

Before washing your gear, it's essential to remove the padding. Some of the material used for padding should be washed or soaked in a different way from the riding jacket or pants. Prolonged soaking may easily damage some of this material. To ensure their longevity, it is better to remove them and clean them separately.

Proper riding gear, like the jacket and pants are actually designed to be washed regularly. That's why much of the protective padding is designed to be removed. Easily the most fragile part of your gear are the foam padding and back protector. Make sure to remove the padding from your riding jacket (shoulder, forearm, back, chest if applicable) and your riding pants (waist, butt, knee protection).

1. To remove them, the easiest way is to turn your jacket and pants inside-out. Once done this way, it's easier to see the openings where you can remove the foam or padding.

2. Open up the velcro or zipper that keeps these pockets closed and gently pull out the liner.

Disinfecting 101: Protect yourself and your gear image

3. Some holes are a little smaller than the padding itself, so fold this foam just a little to squeeze it through the hole and pull it out.

4. Remember where each padding came from and arrange them in a way where you'll remember where each piece came from. This will be handy when returning them later.

Disinfecting 101: Protect yourself and your gear image

Most helmets these days come with removable padding. You can tell if there are clips or buttons securing these padded areas to the helmet. If you don't find these clips or buttons underneath the padding, chances are, your liners are non-removable. These are best cleaned with a damp cloth.

If you do have removable helmet liners, follow these steps below.

1. First, remove the side padding. These are usually secured by buttons and are the easiest to pull out.

2. Next, pull out the back padding, this usually lines the back of the helmet. This may be connected to the top liner.

3. The top liner is secured to the forehead area of the helmet by clips. It may seem frightening to pull out at first, as the clips may be pretty secure, but just give it a tug and it should come off.

Disinfecting 101: Protect yourself and your gear image

Riding jacket and pants

1. Put some water into a big washtub or batya, just high enough to dissolve your regular laundry detergent. The amount of laundry detergent may vary according to how soiled or dirty your riding gear is. Adjust as necessary. Pro tip: It is highly recommended to use liquid laundry detergent, as it is much easier to dilute. For dirt and oil, I prefer to use a dishwashing liquid.

2. After dissolving the laundry detergent, fill the tub with water until it is about 2/3 high in the tub.

3. Soak your riding gear for at least 4 hours to soften the dirt. Pro tip: Place the heavily-soiled gear at the bottom, then the helmet padding on top. This makes sure that the lightly soiled ones do not get the dirt from the heavily-soiled ones.

4. After soaking, use a soft laundry brush to clean your gear, brushing them gently. Pay more attention to the neckline, sleeves of the riding jacket and the shin part of the riding pants as these are typically heavily-soiled parts. Once done, set them aside.

5. By now, the water should resemble a black creek usually found around Metro Manila. Replace with clean water until ¾ full and rinse your riding gear one at a time. Repeat a few times if necessary or until there is little to no detergent residue in the water.

6. Invert your riding gear before hanging to allow the insides to thoroughly dry. Using a hanger, hang your riding gear on a clothesline to dry. Pro tip: As much as possible, avoid hanging your riding gear in direct sunlight. The heat from the sun may accelerate the deterioration of your riding gear's materials e.g.: liners, plastic straps, reflector strips, etc. 

7. Once dry. don't forget to put all the padding back into your helmet, riding jacket, and pants.

8. They're now ready to hang and ready for use on your next ride.

Wash your bike

For your motorcycle, it is best to wash it after every ride to keep it clean and free of germs. All it takes is a few buckets of water, a dipper (tabo), little soap and a sponge, microfiber towel (chamois), or rag (trapo) . COVID-19 can survive on surfaces touched by infected individuals for up to 8-9 hours, according to the DOH, so be very thorough on surfaces your hands touch.

Disinfecting 101: Protect yourself and your gear image

1. Prepare a small bucket with water, preferably, about ¾ full.

2. Using the tabo, get your whole bike wet to wash off soil and sand debris. This is important, as washing your bike with a sponge, microfiber towel or rag before rinsing off dirt could scratch the paint or the decals.

3. After rinsing, refill the bucket with 1/3 water and apply your motorcycle or car-specific washing liquid until it foams. Use the sponge to clean off dirt and oil. Pro tip: Like what the professionals do at the carwash, start wiping off mud, dirt, and oil from the bottom of the bike. Start with the wheels and the engine bay, which are the dirtiest parts. Then, using a different sponge, wipe the top parts like side mirrors, handlebar, seat, and fairings in a circular motion. By doing it this way, you are avoiding scratching your motorcycle's paint job or decals.

Disinfecting 101: Protect yourself and your gear image

4. Rinse and wipe off any excess water using a clean piece of cloth or preferably a microfiber towel (chamois). Pro tip: Use an air blower if you have one to blow away excess water from the hard-to-reach areas of the motorcycle. 

5. Take this opportunity to relube your bike's chain as well.

Disinfecting 101: Protect yourself and your gear image

Once again, the best way to combat the COVID-19 is by avoiding it at all costs and staying at home. If it can't be helped, just make sure to maintain good hygiene and wash your hands frequently. Follow these steps to disinfect your bike and your gear. Taking extra precautions will also help by taking vitamins, staying healthy with a good diet, and wearing face masks.