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.
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…
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.
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.
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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