These notes for beginner fencers are answers to frequently-asked questions about washing and maintaining fencing clothing and equipment.
If you need more information, there is a FAQ that was maintained as part of the rec.sport.fencing newsgroup in the early days of the internet. It has been archived at www.faqs.org/faqs/by-newsgroup/rec/rec.sport.fencing.html, and much of the information still applies.
Jackets, breeches and plastrons sold nowadays are almost always made of synthetic materials, usually polyester or polyester/elastane blend, although the club has some older jackets made of heavy cotton and early FIE-marked jackets were made of Kevlar (which is a form of nylon).
How often they should be washed is a personal preference. Many fencers will wash their own kit after wearing it three or four times, and more often if it's dirty or they were sweating a lot. We aim to wash the club kit once a term, and some items may get an early wash if they are found to be particularly grubby.
Washing more often should not shorten the life of kit, provided care is taken to avoid these common mistakes:
All of these fabrics can be washed with a bio or non-bio detergent; make sure it's rinsed well, obviously. Bleach should only be used if necessary, and then only if it's suitable for the fabric, because the wrong bleach can weaken the fabric. Ironing is not usually needed.
Please do check, when you put the kit away, that it's not damaged - the seams must be strong and any zips fully attached. Velcro may need to be replaced if it no longer holds tightly. The fabrics used are too heavy for most domestic sewing machines. Some dry-cleaners have mending services that will do the job if you do not want to sew it by hand.
Please mark your kit with your name. A name-tape can be ironed-in, or you can write the name with a permanent marker on the inside of the jacket, breeches an plastron. Don't try to mark the jacket on the outside with the name in large letters - if you need that done for an international competition, it's best to get it done professionally.
Many gloves are made of leather, although modern FIE-rated gloves are generally polyester fabric with leather trim.
Don't wash gloves too often, generally no more than once a term. Don't wash them unless they need it.
It's safest to wash gloves in soap or a non-bio detergent intended for silk and wool, though you may get away with an ordinary non-bio detergent. Hand-wash in lukewarm water is safest. Dry them flat or on a rack and away from heat, for example in the airing cupboard.
Please mark your glove with your name, inside the gauntlet.
Lamé (metallic) jackets are typically made of polyester fabric that has a metallic thread in the weave, and they have a plastic backing to prevent electrical leakage.
The first issue with lamé material is that the metallic threads are mechanically fragile, and if too many of them get broken then the material will exhibit "bald spots" that are not electrically connected to the rest. If this happens, then it's normally impractical to repair and the jacket or bib has to be thrown away. For this reason it's important to take care when carrying a lame jacket in a bag, it shouldn't get rubbed against other items (many say, store it inside-out) but also it shouldn't be creased while folding (as then breaks will happen along the fold-lines).
The other big problem with lamé is that it's often made of copper, which tarnishes green and stops conducting. Many lamés nowadays are made of stainless-steel (French: inox) to avoid this, but if you have a copper lamé then it's important to hang it up to keep it dry as soon as you get home!
It follows that you don't want to wash a lamé jacket at all if you don't have to. If you must wash it, hand-wash and rinse with as little agitation as will do the job, and hang-up to drip dry. Test it (with an ohmmeter, or by fencing with it) before taking it to a competition.
Please mark your lame with your name, inside the jacket. Never use a marker or sew a patch on the metallic fabric!
Masks are made of steel - sometimes stainless steel - and the bib is of fabric, like a jacket but even stronger and with padding. Foil and sabre masks have a lamé covering on the bib. Foil masks have an insulating plastic covering on the mesh.
Some masks have removable bibs, in which case you can wash them like jackets (or lamé jackets).
It's not usual to wash the rest of the mask more than a couple of times in its lifetime, if at all. To wash it, wear rubber gloves and dunk it in a big bowl of detergent or soap, and rub dirty areas with a cloth or gentle brush such as an old toothbrush. To rinse it, first hang the mask up to drip for ten minutes or so, then dunk in a big bowl of clear water. Repeat a few times and then hang up to drip-dry outside, or in a warm room.
Take the opportunity to check the safety of the mask.
It's usual to write your name on the back of the mask, in permanent marker or with a Dymo label. You could also write the name on the underside of the bib.
Page produced using BlueGriffon, by Tim Schofield - email@example.com
Information may not always be up-to-date; last updated 18th October
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