How To Clean A Swim Cap (Keep your swim cap like new)


a female swimmer by a pool wearing a swimming cap

A swimming cap is an essential piece of gear for any swimmer, whether you’re a casual lap swimmer or a competitive athlete. But like any other piece of gear, your swimming cap will only last as long as you take care of it.

You should clean your swimming cap after each use, to prevent the build-up of bacteria and to extend its lifespan.

To clean a swim cap, rinse the swim cap with fresh clean water and gently pat it dry with a towel. To keep your swim cap fresh, you can fold a face towel flat and store it inside the cap. This will prevent the cap from sticking together and discourage mould growth.

Many swimmers recommend you use talc or baby powder to keep your swim cap feeling fresh, however personally I discourage this because of the recent allegations around the adverse health effects of talc powder. [source]

Swimming caps are often one of the most replaced pieces of a swimmer’s kit. Many swimmers do not know when their favourite swimming cap has come to the end of its life, and even worse, some swimmers continue to swim with swim caps that are infected with mould.

In this article, I will cover how to clean and care for your swimming cap, covering:

  • How to clean a swimming cap
  • Should I Use Talc or Baby Powder In My Swimming Cap?
  • Do you need to wash a swimming cap?
  • Can swim caps mould?
  • How do I know when I need a new swim cap?
  • How often should I replace my swim cap?

How To Clean A Swimming Cap

I clean my swimming cap quickly and easily as part of my post-swim routine.

To keep your swimming cap feeling fresh, elasticated and like new, you do not anything fancy, only fresh water and a dry towel.

How To Clean A Silicone Or Latex Swimming Cap

Typically, you can divide swimming cap materials into two types; those that have a rubber feel, such as silicone and latex swim caps, or those that have a cloth feel, such as Lycra.

Here are the steps to clean a silicone or latex swimming cap. You can tell if you have a silicone or latex swimming cap as it will have a rubber-like feel.

1. Rinse With Fresh Water

Rinse your swimming cap with fresh water after each use. This will remove any chlorine or salt water that may have built up on the cap during your swim.

You should rinse your swimming cap after each use, to prevent the build-up of bacteria and to extend its lifespan. The best way to rinse your swimming cap is to hand wash it in cool water.

Avoid hot water, as this can cause the material of your swimming cap to break down.

Rinse your swimming cap thoroughly.

2. Dry

Pat your swimming cap dry with a dry towel. You can turn the swimming cap inside out and pat dry the inside too.

Tip: I have a small face towel (also known as a facecloth in the UK) that I use to pat dry my swim cap and then I fold the face towel flat and store it inside the swimming cap which stops it from sticking together and helps the swim cap to dry fully.

It’s important that you dry your swimming cap thoroughly after each use, to prevent the growth of mould and mildew.

3. Mild Soap Clean

Use mild soap to wash your swimming cap once a week. Be sure to rinse the soap completely so that no residue is left behind.

Tip: Shampoo is a mild soap, therefore you can gently rinse your swimming cap in a small bit of shampoo. Ensure that you remove any residue and that the swimming cap is fully dry. Leaving chemicals on your swimming cap, even if it is a mild soap, can cause watermarks and degrade them with time.

4. Inspect For Signs Of Wear

Inspect your swimming cap regularly for signs of wear and tear. If you notice any fraying or cracks, it’s time to invest in a new swimming cap.

How To Clean A Cloth Or Lycra Swim Cap

Your swimming cap may be made from a variety of materials. However, if it has a “cloth” like texture, then it is typically a Lycra blend.

Cleaning a Lycra swim cap is similar to latex and silicone swim caps, however, you cannot pat dry the swim cap and must leave it to dry naturally.

1. Rinse With Fresh Water

Rinse your swimming cap with clean and fresh water.

2. Dry

Hang your swimming cap up to dry after each use, or if possible, dry it flat. Avoid wringing out the water from your swimming cap, as this can cause the fabric to stretch and lose its shape.

3. Mild Soap Clean

Once a week, use mild soap to fully clean your swimming cap. Gently rinse your swimming cap with mild soap.

This will help remove any chlorine smell that may form on your swimming cap and will keep your swim cap feeling fresh.

Should I Use Talc or Baby Powder In My Swimming Cap?

Many swimmers will sprinkle some talc or baby powder into a silicone or latex swimming cap. This will absorb and stop the sides of the swimming cap from sticking together. This is particularly useful for latex swimming caps, which are notorious for sticking to themselves.

Personally, I cannot deny that this does work, but I hate talc powder. As well as getting all over my swim bag, in recent years the Johnson & Johnson talc-based baby powder has a bad reputation as being unsafe for our health. [source]

The very famous Johnson & Johnson brand has now stopped making talc powder because of the vast amount of lawsuits filed against it related to its adverse health effects.

Do You Really Need To Wash A Swimming Cap?

It is necessary to wash a swimming cap to remove water-based contaminants from the material, which will degrade the swimming cap material faster.

It may seem counterintuitive or a waste of time to wash an item that is already wet, however, your swimming cap has been submerged in chlorinated or open water. This is not the same as fresh water.

Swimming pool water has chemicals added such as chlorine, which stops the spread of bacteria. However, chlorine is known for degrading the quality of materials. For example, I tested how well my wetsuit responded to chlorine and found that chlorine sped up the ageing process of my wetsuit. You can read about my findings in his article, “Will Chlorine Damage My Wetsuit? (I tested it)”

Open water such as river swimming or sea swimming will also affect your swimming cap life. Although open water does not have chlorine, it can have some other nasty pollutants, and it is safest to rinse your swimming cap with fresh clean water after each swim to ensure that mould does not grow on your swimming cap.

Can Swim Caps Mould?

Mould loves warm, wet and dark conditions. There is nothing more perfect for mould growth than a swimming cap if it is wet in your gym bag.

Although this is a gross image, by cleaning and drying your swimming cap, you can prevent mould from ever growing on your swimming cap.

If you notice that mould or mildew has grown on your swimming cap, throw it away and get a new one.

Mould can be difficult to remove from fabric, and it’s important that you avoid using a mouldy swimming cap as it can lead to skin irritation. To prevent mould growth on your swimming cap, be sure to clean it after each use and allow it to dry completely before storing it.

It’s also a good idea to store your swimming in a dry place, such as a mesh bag, rather than in a humid environment, like a locker room or bathroom.

Tip: When I learned that mould can grow on swimming caps, I became a bit freaked out by it even though I clean and dry my swimming cap after every swim. To ease my mind, I started swimming with a light-coloured swimming cap which I can easily inspect the surface of and not the typical black swimming I used to use which would hide any potential mould.

How Do I Know When I Need A New Swim Cap?

Swimming caps can last years, with many swimmers claiming that they have had their swimming cap for 5-plus years.

We can get very attached to our swimming cap, and it is not something any of us wants to change necessarily.

You can tell that you need a new swimming cap when the swim cap becomes misshaped, has less elasticity, or fades.

In addition, if you have any tears of physical damage, it is only a matter of time before your swim cap tears completely. This can happen easily with latex swimming caps.

How Often Should I Replace My Swim Cap?

As mentioned, swimming caps can last for years, but typically I will change my swimming cap once per year.

This is because I swim every day in a chlorinated and warm pool and I find that my swimming cap degrades. That said, I also love a new swimming cap so I like to treat myself to a new cap more often than I need them!

In the past, I have found that if I do not clean and dry my swimming cap after each swim, I will need to change my cap every three months.

Final Thoughts

A swimming cap is a necessary piece of equipment for any swimmer, but they require some extra care in order to extend their lifespan and keep them looking their best.

Best tampons for swimming
Best tampons for swimming

Cleaning your cap after each use and allowing it to dry thoroughly are both critical in preventing the growth of mould. In addition, cleaning and drying your swimming cap after every use will prolong its life and keep it feeling new for longer.

Swimming caps should also be replaced every year or sooner if they show signs of wear and tear.

Happy swimming!

Louise Byrne

Hi, I am Louise and I am obsessed with swimming. I spend my free time in the water or getting ready for my next water adventure.

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