Do you smell that?

It creeps up on your nostrils when you’re least expecting it and latches onto your nose hairs for dear life. What could be assaulting your nostrils with such vigor?? It’s Derby funk. Not the down in the dumps kind of funk. I’m talking about the, you just knocked yourself out by smelling our own gear, kind of funk.

It happens to the best of us. We have all, on occasion, forgotten our gear in the car or have allowed it to stew over night in a zipped bag. However, there are those who proudly flaunt their well curated derby funk. Some leagues even present end of year trophies to the smelliest of derby folk. But derby funk is like farts, you might be cool with your own odor, but no one else is. All kidding aside, if you’re gear is smelling funky, and is against your skin, it can actually lead to infections, rashes, or break outs. And heaven forbid a skin issue gets in the way of derby time. Has anyone ever wondered what is really making our gear smell bad?

No? Just me? Well, I’m a self proclaimed nerd so get ready for some nerdy talk. We’re all aware that we have sweat to thank for that awesome odor. Sweating is the human bodies cooling system. So, sweating is a good thing. And if you’re working hard and putting forth full effort at practice, it’s very likely that you will end up sweating. So I’m not hear to bash sweating, or to pick on the extra sweaty kids on the track. What is interesting about sweat, is the bacteria that is attracted to it. Did I just say bacteria?

Yes, yes I did derby fans. When your gear is extra funky, it means you’ve got yourself a bacteria party getting down against your skin. Sweat is mostly water, but a small percentage is a mixture of ammonia, urea, salt, and sugar. This combination of inorganic and organic stuff happens to be what the bacteria, on our skin and gear, loves to…dare I say…EAT. When bacteria such as Micrococcus (commonly found on polyester) and Staphylococcus (commonly found on cotton) start feeding, all you can buffet style, the byproduct is the wonderfully pungent smell, we call, derby funk. So basically, when our gear smells, we are smelling bacteria farts.

So there’s the science behind derby funk, now how do we minimize it without washing our gear after every use? Bacteria enjoys hot, wet, and dark environments (i.e. derby bag in a hot car). However, it still multiplies fairly well in cold, dark and wet environments (i.e. derby bag in a cold garage). So here are some ways to stave off the funk:

1. Air out your gear after every use. Getting rid of moisture slows down the bacteria orgy.
There are lots of cool ways to dry your gear. There’s the old fashion, lay your stuff on the floor option. You can also use a fan, or if you’re looking for something a little more fancy, there are shoe dryers and sports equipment dryers that can cut down the drying time.

2. Spray it down.
Spraying stuff down works well if you combine this with airing the gear out. There are lots of things you can use to assist with the killing of bacteria, but keep in mind nothing is a 100 percent solution. White vinegar is a good natural bacteria killer along with rubbing alcohol. Better yet, both are natural and easy on the skin. There are also sprays that neutralize odor, but not all of them kill bacteria. If you’re a little more adventurous, you can also make your own sprays using a combination of essential oils that deodorize and kill bacteria.

3. Don’t forget, washing is a good thing.
Hand washing is easier on the pads. You can toss a medley of deodorizers and disinfectants into hot water. Good start, is to mix in detergent, white vinegar, and really anything else you think will help. Make sure everything gets nice and soaked then just let it sit for 30mins or longer, depending on how funky they were. Then, when it’s done soaking, rinse all of your gear under running water to get any soap out of the pads. Finally, use your favorite drying method. Of course, you can use your washer; however, it’s a little rougher on your gear and you’ll want to control the velcro parts to avoid them catching to other items. If you’re washer has this option, it’s a really sweet deal to let the pads sit and soak in the washer before it begins to go through the wash cycle. Usually, if I go the washer route, I put all of the pads into a pillowcase and close if off with a hair tie. I don’t suggest drying your gear in a dryer. Air dry or any of your other favorite drying options will do the trick.

So we know what’s making the smell, we know what makes the smell worse, and we know ways to combat the funk. However, what I really want to know is, what are you all using/making that works to fight the funk? Share in the comments below, so together, we can make derby just a little less smelly.


This is my blog. There are many like it, but this one is mine…

Please note, that my opinions, within this blog post and all future blog posts, are just that, my opinions. If you disagree with anything I say, please feel free to engage in respectful dialogue in the comment section below. I can also be reached at Thanks for joining me on my blog-venture!!