How To Clean A Knee Brace in 4 Steps (Plus 5 Tips To Keep Your Brace Clean)

Man putting on his knee brace

Knee braces accumulate sweat and dirt. And, if they’re not cleaned properly, bacteria can decompose. Thus, producing bad odors, skin rashes, or shortening the life of the brace.(1) So, how to clean a knee brace?

The manufacturer will give you precise cleaning instructions. These will depend on the type and fabric of your brace. It’s best to follow them to prolong the life of your brace as much as possible.

Generally, you’ll need some mild laundry detergent for the fabric. Water should be fine for the plastic or metal parts of the brace.

Here are some general guidelines on how to wash a knee brace, whether it’s a sleeve or a hinged brace. I’ll also give you some tips to keep it clean!

How to wash a knee brace in 4 steps

  1. Remove the knee brace according to your doctor or therapist’s instructions.
  2. Remove the straps and/or pads – if any.
  3. If you’re going to machine-wash the brace, make sure to use the gentle cycle.
  4. Use a mild detergent and avoid applying fabric softeners. Don’t use bleach either.
  5. Let it air dry.

Now, the steps may vary depending on the fabric, material, and design of the brace:

How to clean a neoprene knee brace?

Neoprene is a synthetic fabric. Thus, it can accumulate bad odors if it’s not washed frequently.

If you use knee sleeves for playing sports, it may be best to wash them every 2-3 days. This will depend on how often you wear them and how much you sweat.

To wash your knee brace (2):

  • Fill a bucket with soapy, cold water – do this with a small amount of laundry detergent or a mild soap.
  • Let it soak for a few minutes and move it around, gently.
  • Take the brace out of the bucket and rinse it with cold water until you remove all the soap.
  • Squeeze the excess water gently.
  • Let it air dry.

Don’t let them dry in direct exposure to the sun or using a dryer – the heat may damage the rubber or shrink the sleeve.

How to wash a knee brace with hinges?

This type of brace is generally worn after surgeries or for athletes to prevent a knee injury.

Hinges are usually made out of plastic or metal, with velcro straps. Some include sleeves as well.

If you have a knee sleeve with hinges:

  • Make sure to remove the hinges first before washing. Follow the instructions of the manufacturer.
  • Wipe the metal pieces with a wet towel.
  • Wash the fabric as described in the section above.

If it’s a metal or a plastic brace, like an unloader or a post-surgery brace, the instructions vary (3):

  • Don’t disassemble it unless assisted by a healthcare professional.
  • If possible, remove the straps and pads you need to wash. You can do this with a washing machine in the gentle cycle or by hand. Let them air dry.
  • Clean the dirt from the metal with water or compressed air.

For a knee brace made out of metal, make sure it’s fully dry to prevent corrosion.

Also, some hinges must be lubricated for proper functioning. Make sure not to wash that part thoroughly with soap. Unless, of course, the manufacturer recommends it.

5 tips to keep the brace clean

1) Follow the instructions of the manufacturer

If you’re going to use a washing machine, most brands recommend using a bag for delicate clothing to wash the pads and straps. Also, search for a mild detergent.

And if you’re going to wash it by hand, do so gently. Let the fabric soak for a while and rinse it thoroughly with tap water.

2) Check for dirt build-up

If you wear a hinged knee brace, make sure to check for the build-up of dirt or grass in the hinges. These could damage the mechanism.

This is especially relevant if you use your knee brace in sports.

3) Don’t let it get wet while showering

If you’re wearing a knee brace after surgery, you may have to shower with it.

Avoid getting it wet by wearing a cast bag. You can buy one online or make one on your own with a plastic bag.

4) Wipe it with a wet towel once a day

If you play sports with your brace, you’ll collect a lot of sweat on it. Make sure to clean it thoroughly after training, so it doesn’t accumulate bad odors.

If you wear your brace daily, plastic or metal knee braces may get by with a daily wipe using a wet towel.

5) Remove the saltwater as soon as possible

If you went to the beach with your knee support, it will probably have saltwater and sand on it.

Make sure to remove all the dirt thoroughly. Rinse the knee brace with tap water until it’s clean, and let it air dry.

FAQs

How do I get the smell out of my knee brace?

Wash your brace with a mixture made of a small amount of vinegar, water, and baking soda. Let it soak for a while. Then, run it on tap water until it’s clear.

It may smell a bit like vinegar at first, but it will fade away after a few days.

Can you wash braces in the washing machine?

You shouldn’t wash the metal and/or plastic parts of knee braces with a washing machine. So, be sure to remove them before cleaning the fabric.

Wash the fabric with mild soap using a gentle cycle. Or, follow the instructions of the manufacturer.

Can you wash a velcro knee brace?

Yes. It’s best to wash the velcro by hand, with soapy water. Rinse it with warm water and let it air dry.

Conclusion: How to wash a knee brace?

Knee braces usually come with instructions from the manufacturer to keep them clean.

Generally, to wash your brace, you have to consider its material and design:

  • For neoprene braces, use cold water and mild soap or detergent. That way, you won’t damage the material.
  • If your knee brace uses metal or plastic, remove the straps and pads and wash them separately. Clean the rest of the brace with water and/or a wet towel.

Whichever the material of your knee brace, always let it air dry – but not under direct sun.

Resources

  1. Lam, Tze Hau et al. “Understanding the microbial basis of body odor in pre-pubescent 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