How to Clean, Wash, and Deodorize your Boxing Gloves

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How to clean your boxing gloves Don't deodorize in the washing machine

“STOP!!!” my wife shouted.  “Do not bring those into this apartment!”

She was pointing at my boxing gloves hanging over my shoulder.  

“They make the whole place smell like sweaty socks, nasty garbage, and a rancid, rundown gym lockerroom. You have to leave them outside and preferably across the street.”

I knew what she was talking about.  In the past month, I had really gotten into a fitness kick, and all of my friends were already big into boxing workouts, so I decided to give it a try too.  One of the side effects is that my gloves have started to smell horrible all the time. I’ve tried to spray some of our kitchen sanitizers in my gloves, but it just doesn’t work. It makes it smell acceptable for maybe 5 minutes and then the stink just comes right back.  I needed some advice, so the next time I went to the gym, I asked several guys, “How do you clean these stinky gloves, and keep the stink gone?

The best way to not have stinky gloves is to prevent the bacteria that causes it to grow in the first place.  To do this, make sure you dry your gloves immediately after use and store your gloves properly.  If the stink is already in your gloves, you have to kill the bacteria.  There are a number of ways to do this including, cleaning the inside of your gloves with a disinfectant, a vinegar/ essential oil mixture, or with good old dish soap and water with a damp cloth.

What Causes Boxing Gloves to Stink?

You are going to sweat when you box.  If you don’t, you’re doing it wrong.  This moisture is by far the #1 reason for the foul odor in your gloves. The moisture allows bacteria to feed on your sweat and grow, and the bacteria stinks.  Guess where bacteria like to live. The bacteria like dark, warm, moist places. 

Remind you of any places?  Gym bag, maybe?  Or the inside of a boxing glove? This warm, moist, dark environment inside your gloves can also produce mold and mildew, which also do not have a pleasant smell.  So, if you get rid of the moisture, you get rid of the bacteria, mold, and mildew.  Then it follows that you also get rid of the stink.

How To Clean Your Boxing Gloves

If you don’t want your gloves to stink it is best to start cleaning from the time you get them and clean and dry them after every use.  Once the bacteria has started growing, you have to get rid of the bacteria, before you tackle the smell.  Otherwise, you are simply temporarily masking the odor.

To clean the Inside of your boxing gloves, the first thing you want to do is open the gloves as much as possible; loosen the strings or velcro all the way.  Then you will want to wipe down the inside, making sure to reach all the way over the grip bar into the fingers of the glove. This step just removes most of your sweat from the inside.

The next step is to kill any bacteria.  You can use a disinfectant spray, but the trick is getting it all the way to the fingers.  Just spraying and forgetting won’t work.  One of my friends uses Brunswick shoes spray, you know, the kind they spray in rental shoes at the bowling alley.  The good thing about this spray is that it kills bacteria in addition to fungus.  The key is to spray a little extra onto the grip bar and reach inside to make sure you get all the way to the tip of the glove.

If you want to make your own cleaner, you can use 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 2 tablespoons of essential oils, and mix that with a cup of water.  Wipe a cloth soaked with this mixture into the glove, making sure to hit all the surfaces.  After cleaning the inside, go back over with a dry cloth to remove any remaining moisture.  Using essential oils is a bonus with leather gloves because it helps keep them crack-free and supple.

It’s at this point you can spray some scented deodorizer into your gloves.   Now that the bacteria is dead.  The fresh scent will remain.

It is also important to clean the outside of your gloves.  Granted, they will dry much faster than the inside, thus not a major contributor to “the stink” but you might as well get the outside clean.  

Some say that alcohol is the best cleaner for the outside of your gloves because it does kill bacteria, but especially on leather, alcohol will dry AND crack your gloves.  So, the guidance I was given for the cleaning of the exterior of my gloves is to simply use dish soap and water with a damp rag.  Wipe any stains off, an completely dry with a cloth.

Storing your Boxing Gloves

Once you get your gloves cleaned, disinfected, and deodorized, You will want to make sure your store them in a place and fashion that is not conducive to bacteria growth.  Remember, bacteria like it dark, warm, and moist. 

 Even though you just cleaned and dried your gloves, there is most likely some left-over moisture.  To help expedite the drying process there are a lot of moisture-absorbing items that people put in their gloves.  Thes include: 

  1. Cedar chips.  Not only do they wick away moisture, but they also leave a pleasant smell
  2. Baking powder poured into a sock and placed in the glove. (Do not put the baking powder directly into the glove)
  3. Newspaper.  Some of the guys swear by this.  
  4. Shoe deodorizers
  5. Dryer sheets.

I would like to reiterate that these items are meant to help keep the gloves dry AFTER the gloves have been cleaned and disinfected.  You can’t just take your gloves off and toss in some crumpled newspaper and be all good.

Boxing glove storage do’s and don’ts

  • Do store in a place with good airflow (not your gym bag)
  • Don’t store in direct sunshine.  While it may dry your glove faster, it could also damage them

Boxing Glove Cleaning Myths

Myth #1:

You can get your gloves clean in the washing machine.


Yes, they will get clean, but also ruined.  DO NOT toss your gloves into the washing machine, or the dryer for that matter.

Myth #2:

Freezing your gloves will kill the bacteria and get rid of the stink.


Nope.  Freezing your gloves will only make the bacteria dormant. When the bacteria wake back up, so does the stink.  It’s the same as if you put a rancid piece of meat, full of bacteria into the freezer.  When you thaw it back out, It is not safe to eat.

Final Thoughts about Smelly Boxing Gloves

There are two other things to remember when dealing with stinky boxing gloves.

  1. Make sure to find a pair of gloves with some type of ventilation.   This can be mesh on the palm or punched holes.  These allow for cooler hands during workouts and faster drying afterword.  
  2. Clean your wraps after every use.  Why would you spend your time deep cleaning your gloves just to shove dirty, bacteria-laden wraps into them?   It’s quick and easy, just put them in a mesh laundry bag and toss them in the washing machine with your other workout clothes.  Just make sure you DON’T toss your gloves in there with them.
  3. It might be a good idea to get two pairs of boxing gloves. Then each time you workout you can leave one to air out & fully dry and take the “fresh pair” with you to the gym.

Boxing is awesome for cardio, core, arm, and leg strength as well as weight loss (check out our discussion about building muscle using a heavy bag as well as our very popular article about losing weight with a heavy bag).  I am loving every minute of it.  Thanks to all of these cleaning tips from my buddies, I am now allowed back into my apartment.

Thanks for reading and Keep Punching!