Fencing clothes get wet. Not wet like swim trunks or rain jackets, but wet from the heaping amounts of sweat that pour out of a fencer’s body throughout the course of a strenuous practice in thick gear.
The real deal with sweat
First off, let’s talk about sweat.
There is something deeply satisfying about getting in a hard workout at the fencing club. Running up and down the strip, feeling those muscles tense and release, it’s good stuff! That good stuff also produces smelly, wet stuff in the form of perspiration.
Sweat in and of itself is basically water expelled from the skin in order to cool the body down. There’s not actually bacteria in the sweat itself, rather it’s the bacteria on our skin that mixes with the sweat and digests the small amounts of sugar in it that causes the odor.
There’s no reason to feel crazy about sweat, our bodies are meant to do this. It’s healthy to sweat. What’s no healthy is for that sweat and bacteria to stick around and smell like a rhinoceros as a result. The odor gets worse the longer fencing gear stays sweaty, not to mention the risk of bacteria getting out of control. Getting rid of the bacteria and keeping fencing equipment dry should be a priority.
The consequences of wet fencing gear
For fencers, everything gets sweaty. The uniform, the t-shirt underneath the uniform, the glove, the shoes, etc. Some issues that come up with a wet fencing uniform are:
- Overpowering odor
- Spreading of pathogens to skin (can cause rashes or athlete’s foot)
Those last two can be a bit intimidating, but they’re the harsh reality of wet fencing gear. Mold is a threat to respiratory health, both in the short term and in the long term. Bacteria and fungus find a perfect home in a warm and damp fencing bag, and that can lead to unpleasant things like athlete’s foot or eczema. These aren’t serious issues, but they are things we want to avoid! Parents have the job of being especially vigilant as young fencers tend not to realize that their gear is wet.
It’s not only the fabric pieces that are going to get wet, it’s also the metal. That can cause a real problem for fencers who need their gear to work properly. Metal and water are not a good combination.
- Weapons get rusty
- Lame or foil bib break conductivity
- Cords rust and stop working
When all of these things get wet from sweat, which they naturally do, we are faced with a cascade of problems. These problems can cost time, they can cost money, and they can cause embarrassment. There is simply no reason to go on like this with smelly gear and fencing equipment that’s rusted. Keeping gear dry is easy!
Simple steps to keep fencing gear dry
Here are the simple steps that every fencer should take to ensure that their fencing gear stays dry and usable. A lot of these are common sense, but sometimes it takes a quick reminder to use common sense!
Dry gear after every use
This is especially important when you’re traveling. Fencers who go stuffing it all inside the bag immediately without thinking after a competition or practice are asking for a odor and bacteria. Allow wet gear to dry as much as possible before even putting it away by laying it over a chair or hanging it in a locker.
When we say to dry your gear out, we mean thoroughly. If the gear is dried out thoroughly, then all of the problems that we have discussed are not an issue at all! Do be careful about exposing fencing gear to too much direct sunlight as the heat from the sun can be damaging. Also take care not to just throw things into the dryer, as again the heat can be just as damaging as moisture. The best course of action is to allow fencing equipment and gear to air dry inside.
Store wet gear separately after practice
Many fencing bags have separate compartments with zippers. If yours does, that’s the best option for keeping wet clothes away from dry gear inside the bag. You don’t want to get that spare pair of clean socks wet, or you’ll have to wash them again!
If your fencing bag isn’t equipped with a separate compartment, then your best option is to put the wet clothes into a plastic grocery bag and wrap them up tightly. This will prevent the moisture from getting to gear that might rust or spreading the smell.
If worse comes to worse and you don’t have a separate compartment or a plastic bag, you can always separate your fencing gear with your mask. Put wet clothes on one side of the bag, dry clothes on the other side of the bag, and the mask in-between. It’s not the most perfect option, but it’s not a bad option.
Take special care with the lame
Ideally, your lame should be carried separately on a hanger and not put in the fencing bag at all. This is the most tender piece of equipment, and it is at risk no only of getting wet but also of getting damaged through the compression of the fencing bag.
However if it’s not possible to hang it and carry it separately, at least fold it as little as possible and put it on top of the things inside the bag to preserve it as well as you can. Hold off putting it into the bag as long as possible if there are wet items inside! Then pull it out as soon as you are able.
Empty the bag when you get home
On this same note, it’s important to pull everything out of the bag as soon as you walk in the door at home (or at the hotel if you’ve just spent the day at a competition). Don’t wait! Don’t hesitate. Don’t let the kids sit down on the couch or go up to their room until this is done. Unpack the bag and let everything inside dry out completely. Every. Single. Time.
This step is of the utmost importance! Leaving wet items in the bag overnight (or longer) is a recipe for disaster. Don’t do it! This is how you risk doing long term damage do your equipment.
Add a moisture grabber to the fencing bag
There are lots of products on the market that you can throw into your fencing bag to suck up moisture and odor. They come in the form of balls or little sacks generally, and you’ll find them in the sports section or the laundry section of your local big box store. Or go online and order some.
Keep in mind that these are not a substitute for unpacking and drying out the gear. However these are an added protection that will help your fencing bag to be a bit less wet!
Remove fencing shoes
This has already been mentioned in this list, but it bears repeating and repeating and repeating. Shoes are the biggest culprit for odor and for little bits of gnarly things growing. The thick fabric means they stay wet for longer than just about everything else. Take them out of the fencing bag every time and this just won’t be a problem!
If you travel a great deal for fencing competitions, really do try the moisture grabbers for your fencing shoes. Dropping one in each shoe while you travel will make a massive difference in how much smell and moisture you face.
Weapons can rust, which is a massive problem as it lessens their lifespan. All weapons should be properly sheathed after use, always! Avoiding contact with water is a big deal for fencing weapons, for a tons of reasons beyond rust.
Wash everything regularly
Take the time to wash everything in your fencing bag regularly. Many fencing bags can even be washed if you find the need to! We’ve written extensively on how to wash fencing gear, from the lame to the glove and more. It is well worth the effort to get fencing gear clean. Different pieces of gear require different timetables for being washed, but everything needs attention from time to time.
If you’re the parent of a young fencer, get them in on the process. When they go off to college, if they’re still fencing then they’ll need to know how to do all of this themselves! Most important is to allow your young fencer to clean out their bag, to keep it dry, and to maintain their equipment properly. Part of fencing is responsibility, and kids only learn that if they’re given the chance to take it on themselves.
Keeping fencing gear odor and gunk free doesn’t have to be hard. Just remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! It’s much, much easier to keep fencing gear dry than it is to repair damage that moisture has caused.