Hockey Gear Cleaning Experts Tell You How They Get the Job Done

Wondering how to get rid of the stubborn stains and awful stench from your hockey gear? Love Your Gear experts have perfected the art of refreshing your gear.

Nothing can compare to the malodour reeking out of a beer league hockey player’s shin guards or gloves, when it comes to stenches. When used gear is zipped up in a hockey bag, it’s as good as leaving it to ferment there. Take it from our gear cleaning experts, these smells are not pretty, and they are a force to be reckoned with. 

Our own Jimmy Kantzavelos, a 67-year-old expert at cleaning sports gear can attest to this. In one case, a mouse is said to have jumped on Jimmy while unzipping a hockey bag, while in another, he and his workmates came across gear so musty that it literally fell apart in their hands. Another client’s family cat peed on his bag of hockey gear, but what smelled worse than the urine was the actual gear, believe it or not. Kantzavelos says that the gear can sometimes smell even worse than 15-year-old sewage!

Why Clean Your Hockey Gear With Us?

As we enter autumn, a new hockey season is on the horizon for players and parents in Canada. This means it is now time for many to open hockey bags that have been left zipped up since April. Now imagine the stench that is going to greet them! 

Sometimes, it is really too much for a basement washing machine to deal with. But you don’t have to worry, Love Your Gear cleaning experts are here to the rescue. Our 12,000 sq. ft. warehouse in southwest Toronto has a solution for every kind of hockey gear stain and stench. We have a special treatment, our “secret sauce” so to speak, that can get even the toughest stains and puck marks out of your gear.

How It All Began

Jimmy Kantzavelos is popularly called Uncle Jimmy at work because of his nephew, Tony Kantzavelos, 56, who is the founder and owner of Love Your Gear. Tony has ten other deep-cleaning enterprises for bathing, disinfecting, repairing and restoring products such as rugs, shoes, drapes, leather goods and more. Some of Tony’s uncles had also run their own dry-cleaning shops, including Uncle Jimmy. Tony’s mother was also a skilled dress-maker. Needless to say, Tony was surrounded by all things fashion growing up, where he adopted an appreciation for artistic pieces and naturally ventured into the business of restoring and cleaning special items. 

Tony set up his business in 2002 as a dry cleaning specialist. Delicate items such as leather jackets, furs, and purses were sent to Tony for careful handling and cleaning when other dry cleaners were not up to the task. Gradually, Tony was able to set up a more convenient service centre for customers by creating a one-stop shop for cleaning and restoring their most delicate treasures. He even started to offer free pick-up.

Currently, he provides services at his two convenient locations in Toronto with more than 75 employees. These locations include: a super centre in North York, and a main site in Etobicoke, near Kipling Avenue and Dundas Street West.

A Glimpse of The Etobicoke Site

If you get a quick glance at the Etobicoke site, you will see hundreds of wedding dresses wrapped in plastic hanging from the ceilings. The gowns are cleaned on-site and are ready for return to brides who wish to resell them or leave them in storage for safekeeping. One room on the main floor is dedicated to fixing leather and suede shoes, while another at the back has three large spray booths used for colouring leather goods. 

In early 2020, Love Your Gear’s services were being sought out by players from other sports, not just hockey. Other sports where heavy protective gear is worn, like football and lacrosse, brought in many more players looking to clean and refresh their gear. So Tony Kantzavelos responded to this increased demand and installed a section in the centre of the facility with a series of long metal racks in which sports gear could hang to dry.

Love Your Gear: The Business

However, the business came to a standstill as the pandemic came into full-swing, and all sports sessions came to a halt. It was Love Your Rug, the area-rug division, that helped save the day. Surprisingly, now it is the pandemic-related cleaning requirements that are boosting their business. Major sportswear manufacturers are hiring Kantzavelos’ business to clean numerous products that turned mouldy while sitting in storage containers during the pandemic-stricken months.  

The company spent more than five weeks completing a job of hand-cleaning 84,000 pairs of running shoes. Jim St. Pierre, national sales manager for Love Your Centre (the umbrella company that Love Your Gear falls under) says he hired 14 temporary staff members and rented a separate facility specifically for this job in order to get it done. 

Sometime in July, St. Pierre had to pick up about 30 bags of hockey gear from Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute in Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood. This equipment was from Hockey 4 Youth, a charitable program that provides encouragement, coaching and free equipment to new immigrants.

Hockey 4 Youth’s founder, Moezine Hasham, a child of Ugandan refugees and hockey lover, remembers his first days playing hockey fondly after his neighbour gave him used hockey gear. He is now happy to be able to provide new-comers to Canada the opportunity to fall in love with hockey like he did by providing accessibility to equipment to youth interested in the sport. Before handing over gear to new players at the start of every new season, Moezine ensures that it is professionally cleaned. Love Your Gear provides this cleaning service to the charity at a highly discounted rate.

The head of physical education at Marc Garneau Collegiate, Hasham and Paul Hillman mentioned that they air out their gear regularly during the season. So this makes cleaning the gear a breeze for Uncle Jimmy!

The Secret To Cleaning Hockey Gear

Finally, the most-awaited part is here— the secret to cleaning hockey gear. According to the experts, it is a mix of personal touch, and industrial dry-cleaning equipment that does the magic. Uncle Jimmy wipes the dirt from each helmet and sets them on a Fresh Gear Cyclone ozone sanitizer’s metal shelves. 

This proprietary ozone technology sanitizes, disinfects, cleans and dries your gear. This process is the best and most affordable you can find in North America. Also called “activated oxygen,” ozone is a gas consisting of three oxygen atoms. It effectively destroys deep-rooted bacteria, viruses, fungi, mould, yeast, algae, cysts & protozoa. Ozone is natural yet more effective, powerful and faster acting than bleach in killing bacteria.

Our ozone-cleaning technology efficiently blows all-natural gas into your gear and destroys harmful microorganisms. This method prolongs the life of your gear while thoroughly disinfecting and leaving it clean & fresh-smelling. In addition to all the benefits mentioned, this technology of odour elimination is completely eco-friendly since ozone is converted into oxygen once the required cleaning is done.  

After an hour of ozone cleaning, the helmets come out deodorized and disinfected. For the rest of the gear, he loads a pile of hockey pants, chest protectors and shoulder pads into a front-loading washing machine. Swaddling the gear in blankets and bath towels to avoid any damage, he pops in a scoop of detergent combined with a 3-quarter scoop of sodium percarbonate, which is an eco-friendly alternative to bleach. 

He then runs another cycle to get the gear deodorized based on the client’s needs. Since Hockey 4 Youth does not require our heavy-duty deodorizer (used to eliminate pungent skunk odours), Uncle Jimmy picks an apple-scented deodorizer and the gear comes out smelling like freshly picked apples.