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Cleaning EVA Trekking Pole Handles

Cleaning Trekking Pole Handles

It doesn’t take very long for your beautiful brand new trekking poles handles to get all nasty and grimy. Depending on how often and how far you hike it might happen on your first trip or it could take several trips before they get really bad, either way it’s going to happen eventually.

If you are on of the few true gear geeks that cleans every piece of their gear meticulously after each hike, then this might not be all that useful for you, but stay with me. However, if you are like me and I’m guessing most of my readers and have good intentions of cleaning your gear but don’t always get round to doing it before the next hike, then this might be a useful little tip for making those stinky handles look and smell as good as new. I have to credit my East Coast hiking partner Ben2World for sharing this with me.

Deep Cleaning
The handles on my Gossamer Gear LT4 trekking poles are made of  cork look-a-like EVA foam called ‘Kork-O-Lon’. They are very durable and provide excellent grip, but they are absorbant which means they soak up all of the dirt and sweat from my hands throughout the course of a hike. If they go unwashed between multiple trips, well you get the idea…

Cleaning Trekking Pole Handles

I’ve washed the poles and handles in mild soapy water many times before, but have found that the handles are getting more and more nasty as time goes on. If you like a good “hiker patina” on your pole handles then stop reading here – I personally don’t :)

The solution to removing this is very simple. Use a mixture of warm water and household bleach to fully submerge the handles in and let the soak for a few minutes. The bleach will kill all of the bacteria in the EVA foam and remove the smell that has built up. I use a mixture that is three parts water, one part bleach. I typically clean the poles and handles with mild soapy mixture first to remove and dirt and then use this method to “deep clean” the foam handles after.

Cleaning Trekking Pole Handles

The photo above shows the difference that the deep cleaning (right side) makes on the EVA foam handle. This entire handle was gently washed with soapy water to remove most of the surface grime and then dipped in the water-bleach mixture to let it penetrate and remove the nasty sweat and bacteria.

Notice that the cork-like pattern of the EVA foam has not been removed by the bleach. You’re not going to suddenly get pure white handles by doing this.

Cleaning Trekking Pole Handles

Here is the handle whole handles fully cleaned and back to its original fresh looking (and smelling) self. I’m trying to get better at taking care of my gear on a regular basis, but even I slip or forget to do it most of the time. I don’t recommend that you bleach your handles after every use, but as and when you think they could benefit from a deeper clean you can use this quick method to give them a refresh – as with all tips and tricks, please apply common sense.

Do you have any gear cleaning tips you’d like to share or any questions you’d like answered?

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  • JJ_Mathes

    hahahaha…and I thought I was the only one that washed them. Once on a long distance hike mine got sooooooo bad they were stinking, so when I got the a State Park where I could shower I took them in with me and used shampoo, it’s all I had at the time. They weren’t as clean looking as yours in the photos, but they didn’t stink and I was happy until I completed the hike.

    • On a recent hike I was looking around to figure out what the nasty (sweaty) smell was, assuming it was just me. Turned out it was the handles of my poles. This solves that problem for a good long while. So no, it’s not just you!

      • JJ_Mathes

        I’m talking about 6-weeks of crud build up on mine, can’t imaging how bad it would be for an AT or PCT thru hike :-)

  • Denture cleaners would probably work too. Plop plop.

    • Yeah I bet they would. I use those for cleaning out my hydration bladders usually. Good call, thanks Ken.

  • trishia hope

    Haven’t done this.I’ve been looking for some simple way to clean mine.It wasn’t bad to try this and I think it would work just fine.

  • Try using an “oxy” type cleaner before the bleach dip. They are very good for removing body oils and grunge.

  • George Phoenix

    About how long should I keep them dipped in the bleach solution?

    • Doh! Great question George and I probably should have covered that in my post. There’s no real science to this, but my rule of thumb is: 30mins to kill any nasty germs and 1-2 hours if your intention is to give them a ‘clean’ look. The example I showed was after an hour of being submerged in the bleach solution.

      Effervescent cleaning tables like the ones used for cleaning dentures will also work great, possibly even faster due to the bubbling action they create, but I’m not confident that they will kill germs as effectively as good old bleach. Besides, bleach is cheaper too! Hope that helps – BFG