FOX6 OYS Helmet Investigation: How to keep your helmet clean

FOX6 OYS Helmet Investigation: How to keep your helmet clean
UAB students helped us by running the tests. (Source: WBRC video)
UAB students helped us by running the tests. (Source: WBRC video)
(Source: WBRC video)
(Source: WBRC video)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Helmets are a skull's lifeline in sports, but what if the protective equipment is putting your child's health at risk? We visited the UAB School of Science & Math to test what kinds of bacteria might be growing in a helmet. 

For the testing, scientists swabbed four parts of each helmet: the chin strap, the back of the head, the facemask and the ear padding.

For the most accurate results, we used helmets that hadn't been worn or cleaned since the season ended.

"They are incubated and in just a day or so, you get the results," said UAB School of Math and Science director, Danielle Yancey, PhD. "I was surprised that they weren't that dirty. The one that had the most bacterial growth was the top of the head and the ear. I was expecting to find a little bit more bacteria than we did."

So despite their smell, nothing too bad was found since the helmets were stored in non-climate controlled fieldhouses.

"More than likely the temperature change is going to kill any harmful bacteria," Yancey said."It's going to need to be in a warm, moist environment in order to thrive."

Which means in summer and fall weather, it's a good idea to wipe down each helmet to avoid harmful bacteria growth. So what's the best way to clean them? We put a couple of household cleaners to the test!

The hydrogen peroxide was least effective. Next, we tried a homemade cleaner made of lemon juice, dish soap and vinegar, which was relatively effective compared to the hydrogen peroxide.

Lysol, on the other hand, killed a significant amount of bacteria, but it was Pinesol that took the win. Pinesol was the only cleaner to kill the majority of bacteria on every helmet tested.

"If you compare [the Lysol plate] to the Pinesol plate you can see there is no growth at all (that's amazing it killed all of it) ya so it's very effective at killing the bacteria. The [bacteria were killed] on the metal grading across the mouth, the chinstrap, the earpiece and the top of the head by the Pinesol," Yancey said.

Football is physical enough as it is so don't be taken out of the game from a dirty helmet!

The UAB community outreach program, Parker High school students, Bessemer Academy and Restoration Academy all contributed to this story.

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