Once you’ve had enough of the cold and start looking towards the longer, warmer days of summer, it can be easy to stuff your winter gear into a corner and forget about it for the next six months. Instead, take some time to apply a little loving care before you store everything away. This will increase the lifespan of your clothes and equipment and leave you ready to hit the ground running when the first flakes fly next winter.
Winter sports equipment can be easily damaged and is expensive to fix or replace if stored incorrectly.
Bikes: For winter commuting bikes and fat tire bikes, at a minimum make sure to clean off all salt and road grime from the chain and frame, then lubricate the chain and cables. Other good maintenance steps are to re-grease your seat post and inflate the tires if you will be storing your bike sitting upright. Since the end of winter biking season overlaps with the spring bike-shop rush, write down any repairs you may need or put a tune-up reminder in your calendar to make sure you don’t wait to address issues until next fall.
Skis and snowboards: Skis and snowboards should be wiped clean, dried thoroughly, and covered with a coat of storage wax before being stored. The best place to keep your gear is in a dry snowboard or ski bag. Either way, store them in a place with consistent temperature and low humidity (probably not in your unheated garage or damp basement). For ski and snowboard boots, wash liners, wipe exteriors, and let them air dry. Make any repairs needed to your gear at a shop like Erik’s Bike Board Ski, Hoigaards, or Tonka Cycle & Ski, and put everything together out of direct sunlight.
Ice skates: Before storing ice skates, wipe the blades dry and pull the laces loose to let the boot air out. Covering the blades in “soakers,” or fabric covers that draw moisture away from the metal is better than plastic skate guards. Get your skates ready for next year by sharpening them at places like Play it Again Sports, hockey stores, or your local ice arena. For extra rust-blocking power, put a small amount of oil on the blade. Store skates in a place away from humidity.
Winter jackets can get dirty and smelly, and regular washings will actually help them keep you warm, too. Just make sure to check the labels before tossing your coat into the washing machine, because there are many different fabrics and designs, from wool pea coats to puffy down jackets, and different layers may or may not be machine washable. When laundering, practice good habits like pre-treating stains, emptying your pockets, zipping up zippers and closing any Velcro straps. You may also want to use a tech wash for waterproof fabrics. For tears, clasps or zipper issues, check out a repair shop like Thrifty Outfitters, Repair Lair, or REI. Some brands like Patagonia and North Face also have warranties on their gear, so check to see if your item might be covered. When storing, hang loosely in a closet and don’t compress any down-filled jackets or you’ll reduce their insulating power.
Don’t forget about caring for your hats, scarves and mittens! Similar to outerwear, follow the washing instructions on the tag.
If you can’t find any instructions or the tag is gone, here are some general guidelines:
- Hand wash delicate items like wool or knits using a gentle detergent.
- Do not completely submerge anything that has leather. Instead use a leather conditioner or saddle soap and wipe down any non-leather parts.
- For gloves and mittens, if you can remove the liners, wash those separately and hang them from the fingers to dry.
- Use a tech wash to clean waterproof items instead of regular detergent.
- Most accessories should be laid flat to air dry.
Store these items together so you don’t have to go digging through multiple boxes to find what you want when you need them next.
Before storing your winter boots, take a few simple steps to keep them looking great.
- Wipe off salt using a water or water/vinegar solution and a cloth, and clean and treat any leather.
- For tall boots, place a rolled-up newspaper inside to help them keep their shape.
- If your boots have started to stink, deodorize them using baking soda, activated charcoal, or a freeze method. You can also add sachets of cedar, cloves or lavender.
- If you’re placing your boots into a bin, store the heaviest pairs at the bottom to keep them from crushing others out of shape.
When it comes time to retire your winter gear for the season, don’t put anything away with haste. Think clean, dry and repair first!
It’s also a good idea to hold onto the items your kids grew out of or that you will no longer use until closer to next winter. It is best to donate seasonal clothes when others will be thinking about using them, so box them up and donate them in the fall.