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Keep it clean

Revealed: the sports hygiene technology that's driving performance on track

Keeping clean when exercising isn’t just about good hygiene, it’s about improving performance – even when you’re traveling at over 200 mph in a Formula 1 car. Don’t believe us? Well, CleanKit’s Adam Busby caught up with Lando Norris’ performance coach Jon Malvern and McLaren team performance coach Serg Stelitano to find out how CleanKit’s sports hygiene technology really is helping McLaren perform on track…

During a grand prix Lando Norris spends hours wearing a fireproof race suit, burning around 800 calories and sweating up to two litres of water per hour, how important is technical sportswear to keep him cool and able to concentrate on performance?

Jon Malvern: An F1 car is a very hostile environment. A driver will generate a lot of heat just from physically driving the car, but they’re also surrounded by heat while in the cockpit - predominantly from the ambient temperature and the engine sitting behind the driver. One of the main responses of the body to help deal with this heat and keep the body cool is to sweat. Sweating creates a layer of water that cools the surface of the skin as it gets wicked away by airflow, which in turn cools the blood and keeps core body temperature down. But, in an F1 car, there is limited airflow coming through the cockpit or the fireproof layers worn by a driver, so they don’t get any benefit from sweating. It actually becomes a negative because they just lose fluid which leads to dehydration.

Anything we can do to wick heat away from Lando’s skin makes a huge difference to keeping him cool in the car. CleanKit’s products help us to do exactly that; the coolant technology in the spray is activated when it comes into contact with sweat, and the detergent unclogs pores in the fabric to keep it breathable. There’s a mental benefit as well because a big part of being able to perform in the heat is dealing with the psychological challenge it presents. If we can make Lando feel cooler, he’s going to be in a better place mentally to deal with the heat and that’s a big win when it comes to maximising performance.

How does Lando use the CleanKit Dry Wash Sportswear Spray before a race and how does it help him to perform?

JM: We use it a lot to keep him and what he’s wearing fresh. I’ll spray all of his Nomex kit about half an hour before he puts it on for a session, so everything smells fresh and he can take advantage of the cooling benefits I mentioned. And then, when he returns from the track, because he doesn’t have time to change his kit due to the schedule being so busy – for example, between the two Friday practice sessions – we use the spray again. It keeps Lando fresh. But it probably helps me and the engineers more because it means we don’t have to smell him!

Why is it important to disinfect things that are hard to wash like shoes, helmets and gloves?

Serg Stelitano: If you consider the members of the team that aren’t driving the car but have to wear all the protective fireproof clothing, we're talking about 20 people who can find themselves in similar conditions to the drivers. It’s obviously not quite as extreme but they still get very little airflow in the garage. As the race progresses a high amount of sweat builds up in the overalls and helmets, and there’s nothing worse than being in a sweaty helmet for two hours during a race!

It’s crucial to keep these items of clothing as clean as possible and to maintain basic levels of hygiene. Take the boots, for example, they’re quite hard to wash: you can’t just stick them in a washing machine. You have to think about other ways to clean them, especially as, unlike the overalls, they don’t go back to the McLaren Technology Centre to be washed. The CleanKit products really help us to keep on top of things in this regard and prevent things like skin irritations.

How do you maintain technical fabrics, such as racewear, for the entire team?

JM: We use the CleanKit Sportswear Detergent a lot because it really helps to keep the fireproof Nomex clean. Ideally, you want to wash it at a fairly high temperature because it’s absorbed a lot of sweat but this causes it to shrink – something there’s not really margin for because this type of clothing is made to measure. But with the CleanKit Sportswear Detergent you can wash at 30°C, which prevents the Nomex from shrinking. We tend to use it a lot when washing team clothing too. And we get through so much CleanKit Dry Wash Sportswear Spray. I’m constantly asking for more!

SS: We’ll use the spray on the inside of the helmets and boots, and we’ll use the CleanKit Wipes on the outside of these items. The wipes are essential for us. I’m sure Jon will agree that when you’re using a massage couch, they’re so handy for quickly wiping it down – you instantly know it’s clean, safe, and good to go the next time you need to use it. When I’m treating up to 15 team members in a day, it makes keeping everything clean so much easier.

JM: Keeping equipment clean is a really big thing for us. For example, before we touch any gym equipment, we wipe it down with the CleanKit Wipes and then we use the wipes again when we’ve finished so it’s clean for anyone else to use.

In light of the global pandemic, a lot of people are now conscious about where they exercise and perhaps less confident to exercise in shared spaces. How do you recommend keeping workout equipment clean and safe, and what would you suggest people can do in their home or gym when they share equipment?

SS: The main thing is to try to disinfect as often as possible. You don’t have to go that far back to remember a time when people were using a sweat towel to wipe down equipment; we’re all exercising smarter now and aware that that’s not enough to keep equipment clean. You need to be using products like the CleanKit Wipes instead. If you’re in a gym environment with somebody else, you should try to maintain social distancing where possible and have respect for each other’s personal space.

I certainly think people should be going back to training as long as it’s safe for them to do so. It’s vitally important: both physically and mentally. Exercising helps to reduce stress and gets you feeling good about yourself, so the sooner we can get back to exercising regularly, the better. But we must do it in a safe environment, and a safe environment is a clean environment. If we can keep things as hygienic as possible, everyone wins.

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