The Sling I Wear On My Mangled Arm Smells Like Ass, Please Help

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Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Check the Squalor Archive for assistance. Are you still dirty? Email her.

A couple of weeks ago, I fell off my bicycle and broke my clavicle—and now I’ve got my arm in a sling for at least another month. Here is the problem: Due to it being summer/not really being able to sleep on any position but flat on my back, this thing is becoming SWEAT CENTRAL, and it’s starting to take on that “old hockey pad” smell. I’d love to take this thing off and give it a proper cleaning, but it’s no good to leave it off for an extended period of time unless I want to sit on my couch holding everything in place. Do you have a solution where I could at least get this thing dry and not so smelly a little quicker?

In the interest of full disclosure, this question came from a good pal of mine. The email opened with, “HEY SO I was going to ask you this normally, but it might be good fodder for a column?” And yeah, I agree that it’s good fodder! Especially because I have a handful of similar questions about knee and wrist braces.


While the question was very specifically about quick cleaning methods, which we will absolutely get to, let’s open with a review of washing instructions, because that’s a thing you will really need to do at some point. The short version is this: Dissolve a small amount of mild detergent, and maybe a dash of a laundry booster like Borax, in warm water. Soak the sling or brace, then rinse well. Post-rinsing, press out as much water as you can with your hands, then roll the sling or brace in a towel to squeeze out more water. Finally, lay flat to finish drying.

Now then, we here on the East Coast are suffering through some pretty wicked humidity right now, so when I was giving my friend advice on what to do about the stinking sling, I mentioned that, if possible, he should try to do his washing on a dry day. I was reminded of this myself when I was spot-treating a stained comforter and the thing was still SOAKED with Shout hours after I’d sprayed it, because the day was so damp. The other thing that will help with drying time is to lay the thing flat in front of a fan or AC unit. For smaller items, you could also use a hairdryer on the “low heat” or “cool” setting.


For the (much, much) longer version of how to hand- or machine-wash items like slings and braces, check out the posts about cleaning roller derby pads or hockey pads.

With that, we can get back to the issue at hand, which is keeping the smell at bay in between more substantial washings. I had a few ideas.

Baking Soda

For a quick deodorizing, take the sling off and lay it as flat as you can on top of some newspapers. Dump a whole bunch of baking soda on the thing and let it sit for 10-15 minutes, then dump the baking soda off, or even vacuum it up, and give it a quick wipe with a damp rag to get any remaining powder off. If you don’t mind a floral smell, a powdered carpet deodorizer will also work.



Another way to do a quick cleaning, again if you can handle the smell, is to blast the thing with Lysol, which can be safely used on fabric.


Vodka & Vinegar

Vodka can also be spritzed on the sling to kill the smell. The same goes for white vinegar. The best way to use either of those is to decant them into a small spray bottle, which will allow you to control how much liquid comes in contact with the sling or brace.


One reader asked specifically about cleaning a Neoprene knee brace using vinegar, which is indeed safe for use on that material. The only thing to bear in mind when it comes to the use of anything acidic on slings or braces is that if they have metal fasteners, those parts shouldn’t be exposed for prolonged periods of time to avoid corrosion. That basically just means “don’t soak the brace in vinegar.”

Shoe Odor Sprays

The reason that your shoes stink is pretty much the same reason that your sling stinks, so it stands to reason that a product made for deodorizing shoes will work on your orthoses. Bonus: It’s fast-drying.


Kitty Litter

You could also bury the sling in clean kitty litter for 15 minutes and see if that takes out some of the funk. Litter is designed to kill odors (cat pee, hello!), though without the benefit of hands-on testing, I can’t say for sure how quickly it will work. (The friend is a cat owner, and I like to recommend things that people have on hand.)


Baby Wipes & Baby Shampoo

A daily wiping-down of this stinking thing you have to wear with a baby wipe—or with a damp washcloth or rag, and a little baby shampoo—will also help to keep a horrible stink from developing. If you—or, more realistically, the people helping you, since your shoulder is broken—chooses the baby shampoo and rag approach, rinse the rag and use it to wipe away the soapy residue, and then go over the sling with a dry towel. It shouldn’t have gotten too soaked from that quick washing, and you’ll be able to put it back on.


I feel pretty good about those options, but I bet some of you reading this have had your own experiences with slings and braces and such that need to be worn for long periods of time. So I’m going to take this opportunity to ask people who have had shoulder injuries if they have any tips or tricks up their ... slings.

Yeah, you saw that one coming.

Jolie Kerr is Deadspin’s resident cleaning expert and the author of the book My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha (Plume). Follow her onTwitter, or email her:


Illustration by Sam Woolley.

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