Can You Wash A Knee Brace? | Complete Guide

Written By on January 10, 2022 — Medically Reviewed By Kristopher Ceniza

White and gray knee brace

You’ve been wearing your knee brace for a few training sessions now. It’s starting to smell like an old sock from all the dirt and sweat. So, can you wash a knee brace? If so, how?

Well, yes! You should wash your knee brace, and often. You’ll prolong its life and prevent skin problems. Not to mention avoiding bad odors due to the accumulation of bacteria.

The good news is that you can clean most braces in the washing machine. I’ll give you a step-by-step on how to do it so you don’t damage the brace.

Here are the topics we’ll discuss, tap on any of them to go straight to that section:

Let’s start with the basics:

How to wash your knee brace?

Each manufacturer will have specific instructions on how to wash the brace. But, here are two ways to wash most knee braces:

Using a washing machine

This is the easiest way. The step-by-step is:

  • After taking off your knee brace, remove the straps and/or pads, if any
  • Brush away the excess dirt
  • Set the machine in the gentle cycle with cold water
  • If you have a laundry bag for delicate clothes, use it to wash the brace
  • Use a mild detergent. Don’t use bleach or fabric softener
  • Let it air dry, but not under direct sun

Pro tip: Avoid washing the brace at a hot temperature – it will shorten its life.

Washing your brace by hand

This may take longer. But, it’s best for stubborn stains, velcro, and smelly sleeves:

  • Fill a bucket or the sink with cold water
  • Apply a small amount of mild laundry detergent
  • Let it soak for a few minutes, moving the brace around from time to time
  • Then, rinse the brace until the water runs clear
  • Let the brace air dry, but not under direct sun

Further reading: Precise instructions for cleaning a knee brace according to its material

How to remove the bad smell from your knee brace or sleeve?

Knee braces are extremely helpful, but a big downside is that they can get smelly fast. This is due to the accumulation of bacteria. Not washing them often or not letting them dry after wearing them accelerate this process.

So, if your brace smells, try this method to remove the odor:

  • Fill a bucket or the sink with cool water
  • Remove the straps and/or pads of the brace
  • Put a mixture of mild soap, baking soda, and a small amount of vinegar in the water
  • Let the brace soak for a while
  • Rinse the brace until the water runs clear
  • Put it in the washing machine if you want to remove the vinegar smell
  • Let it air dry

5 tips to avoid having a smelly knee brace

1) Clean the hinges with a towel every day

Plastic or metal hinges tend to accumulate dirt and sweat with daily use. This breeds germs, not to mention the potential damage to the hinged mechanism.

You can avoid this by washing the hinges with a clean towel at the end of the day. This is particularly important if you play sports with the brace, as the support will gather tonnes of sweat and dirt.

2) Let it air dry after wearing it

This is an easy way to prevent your knee brace from smelling. Doing this reduces the germs in the fabric, which in turn prevents bad odors from settling.

Avoid exposing the braces to direct sunlight, though. This type of heat reduces the compression capacity of neoprene sleeves and braces.

3) Don’t sleep with your knee brace on

Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, of course.

See, for most people, sleeping with a knee brace isn’t a good idea. You run the risk of aggravating the injury or causing a skin rash.

Also, remember that a brace is supposed to stabilize and protect your knee. There’s no need to stabilize it or protect it from external forces while you’re sleeping.

4) Don’t shower with the brace

Again, unless your doctor tells you to shower with the brace on. Getting it wet will accumulate even more germs in the fabric.

If you have to shower with the brace, try to keep it as dry as possible. Wrap it with a plastic bag or buy a cast bag online.

5) Wash it at least every few weeks

The washing frequency will depend on the intended use of the brace. If you wear it to play sports, it may be wise to wash it at least weekly. It will get dirty and smelly pretty quick.

Follow the instructions above to wash it in the washing machine or by hand.

Pro tip: It may be best to have 2-3 braces if you have to wear them often. This can be the case for athletes or people with severe osteoarthritis.

Why is it important to wash knee braces?

A knee brace accumulates sweat and dirt. This is normal – you’re supposed to wear it during physical activities. But, if you don’t wash it regularly, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.

See, when germs decompose, they produce bad odors. They can shorten the life of the brace as well. And, some people can be prone to skin rashes if their brace isn’t washed. (1)

You can avoid all this simply by keeping your knee brace clean and washing it often!

FAQs:

Is it OK to wear a knee brace all day?

Yes, but it may not be necessary for most people.

Knee braces protect and support the knee during physical activities. Like walking or playing sports. You don’t need it if while you’re watching TV or sleeping, for example.

What is the difference between a knee brace and a knee sleeve?

Knee braces provide more support and protection than sleeves. They’re best in moderate or severe injuries. Whereas sleeves are best for mild injuries or pain after physical activity.

Can you wash a neoprene knee brace?

Yes. Soak it in a bucket of cold soapy water for a while. Rinse it until you remove all the soap and let it air dry. Avoid the dryer – the heat damages the neoprene.

Can you put a brace in the washer?

Yes. Remove the plastic or metal parts first. Use a gentle cycle, cool water, and avoid fabric softeners or bleach. Let it air dry. Don’t use a drying machine as it can damage the material.

Can you shower with a knee brace?

Avoid showering with your brace unless your doctor tells you to. If so, use a plastic bag to keep the brace as dry as possible.

Conclusion: Should you wash a knee brace?

Yes! You should wash your brace every few weeks. This will:

  • Prolong the life of the knee brace
  • Keep it from smelling bad
  • Prevent rashes and other skin problems
  • Make sure the knee brace will protect and support your knee

The easiest way to wash a knee brace is with a washing machine. Yet, make sure to use the gentle cycle, cool water, and mild detergent.

It may take longer by hand, but it can help you remove the smell. Put some vinegar and baking soda into the mix to remove odors.

Finally, the easiest way to keep your knee brace clean is through daily maintenance. Wipe the hinges with a wet towel after using it, let it air dry, and don’t shower with the brace.

Resources

  1. Lam, Tze Hau et al. “Understanding the microbial basis of body odor in prepubescent children and teenagers.” Microbiome vol. 6,1 213. 29 Nov. 2018, doi: 10.1186/s40168-018-0588-z
  2. “Care instructions.” SBD Apparel. Retrieved on July 01, 2021 from https://sbdapparel.com/pages/knee-sleeves-3
  3. “Unloader One. Patient guide.” Ossur. (PDF). Retrieved on July 01, 2021 from https://assets.ossur.com/library/36187/Unloader

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Author
Mich Torres (PT)
Mitch is a physical therapist, personal trainer, and nutrition coach. Fascinated with the knee joint, Mitch poured that passion into writing about knee pain and how to overcome it with movement. His goal is to teach you how to apply this knowledge into your daily life, so you can keep knee pain away for good.

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