Muay Thai gyms are full of peculiar smells at times and there's plenty of different sources. Your gloves can be a continuous source of pungent odours if you don't take the time to prevent odours building up and rid your gloves of odours when they do arise. Fortunately, it doesn't take a lot of time and there are plenty of methods to help keep your gloves clean and fresh. However, it's worth noting that the lower quality your gloves, (especially if they aren't real leather and have broken lining) the quicker they'll become stinky and the more difficult it is to get rid of the smells.
Before we jump into describing methods to prevent odours and clean your gloves, it's important to note that you'll need to do all this by hand. Do not machine wash or dry your gloves! They are made of materials that do not bode well in such environments and doing so will quickly degrade them. Instead, take the time and manual effort needed to properly care for them. It's worthwhile as it prolongs their life and helps maintain their integrity. Although, that said, you don't need to wash your gloves after every session, use your nose and eyes to judge how frequently they should be cleaned.
You don't need to thoroughly clean your gloves regularly if you take consistent preventative care before and after training sessions. This type of care is quick and should form part of your overall training regime to ensure consistency.
Wear clean hand wraps
It's easy to get a sweat on training Muay Thai. Having your hands in gloves that you're throwing around and putting pressure onto makes for a sweaty, moist environment. Hand-wraps will absorb some of the moisture and retain it so less ends up in your gloves.
To maximise their potential, wrap them securely around your hands (which also maximises protection) and wash them between training sessions. If you don't wash them regularly, they will stink and transfer their odour to your gloves. You can machine wash hand-wraps and air dry them with ease. By doing this regularly, you'll reduce how often you need to clean the inside of your gloves.
Wait before putting them in your bag
It's convenient to put your gloves straight into your gym bag after training but this is a bad move. Your bag accumulates dust, dirt, sweat and grime from the gym and all the gear you put into it. As such, it makes for a great breeding ground for bacteria, which you don't want on/in your gloves.
Instead, latch them onto the side of your gym (or lace them if laced gloves) or put them in a plastic bag. Once home, let them dry and air out before returning them to your bag.
Wipe your gloves after each use
Your gloves accumulate dirt and dust alongside bacteria when training and being in the gym. It's good practice to wipe them on the inside and outside after each session, either with a normal paper towel or an anti-bacterial wipe. This will help remove some of the dirt/dust/bacteria and absorb some of the moisture.
After successive training sessions, it's almost inevitable that gloves will become stinky due to prolonged accumulation of dirt and bacteria in areas that you've missed or don't get cleaned as part of your preventative care. This calls for thorough cleaning. There's many ways to do this and it's usually a combination of the options below that work best.
Use anti-bacterial spray/wipes
Anti-bacterial spray is safe for your gloves and can be sprayed inside and out to kills germs. It's recommend that you spray the outside and wipe down with a paper towel, although you could also just use anti-bacterial wipes. For the inside, open up the velcro (or lace) and spray a liberal amount on the inside, then air them out in a cool, dry place.
Scrub the crevices
When wiping the outside with either a paper towel or anti-bacterial wipe, use some elbow grease too. There's plenty of marking (including paint transfer and removal from pads/bags and blood from sparring) that will be present on your gloves after a while. While some of these will be permanent, it's important you get rid of any blood and bodily fluid – whether visible or not. Therefore, be thorough and pay attention to the folds, crevices and stitching and scrub those areas carefully.
Use apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is renowned for its anti-bacterial and cleansing properties. As such, it's very useful for cleaning various goods, including leather goods. It's incredibly simple to use and especially so for cleaning gloves. Simply take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar either on your hand or a paper towel and rub it all over the outside of your gloves. Then leave overnight for it to sink in and work its magic. Much, if not all, of the odour should then be gone. It's safe to do this more than once so if it doesn't work the first time, go ahead and do it again.
Store them in the freezer overnight
This sounds like an odd option but it works. There's evidence to suggest this kills much of the bacteria in your gloves but it needs time to be effective. Therefore, leave your gloves in the freezer for 1 or 2 nights in a row for best results. In order to avoid contact with other goods in your freeze and mitigate the potential of cross-contamination, put your gloves in a plastic bag before storing them in the freezer.
Don't boil them!
People sometimes bring this up as an option to deal with stinky gloves. However, it does not help the durability and longevity of your gloves if you boil them. Nor does it guarantee all the bacteria will be killed. Therefore, avoid this method and try all other avenues first. If they don't work, it's probably time to get a new pair of gloves rather than trying anything else.
How to keep gloves fresh between sessions
After drying out your gloves post training and washing, there's a couple of ways you can maintain their freshness and extend their life.
People often stuff their gloves between sessions (after having dried them out) to maintain their shape and absorb any remaining moisture inside the gloves. This reduces the likelihood of bacterial growth and odour from brewing. You can use newspaper, soap and even bagged pot-pourri for this. However, the best option is using a glove dog like No Stink.
No Stink are made from non-toxic bamboo and activated charcoal which works to absorb the moisture inside your gloves and eliminate the bacteria that causes bad smells. They're re-usable and can help keep your gloves from stinking for prolonged periods.
Keep out of direct sunlight
Good quality gloves are often made from cowhide leather which helps keep them durable for a long while. However, given that leather is a natural substance, your gloves shouldn't be left in direct sunlight for extended periods. After all, it's made from animal skin and the effect of leaving it in the sun is similar to what happens when people expose themselves to direct sunlight for extended periods – premature ageing, discolouration, drying and cracking.
Instead, keep them in a cool dry place that's clean and void of bacteria. As such, it's a good idea to keep them out of your gym bag between sessions unless that's regularly cleaned too.
Your gloves are probably the most frequently used bit of Muay Thai equipment you own. In order to avoid a stench brewing inside them (which would otherwise be inevitable thanks to their consistent use in sweaty conditions) you need to take regular, diligent care of them. There's many ways you can do this both as part of a preventative regime and a thorough cleaning process, all of which are pretty easy and not very time consuming. It's worth the time and effort as it reduces the likelihood of your gloves stinking while extending their life – saving you embarrassment and money in the long-run.