Smelly recreational clothes, once thought to be a lost cause, now can be returned to fresher days at Northwest Clean Gear LLC.

The company's co-founders, Brian and Mary Edwards, use a washing machine from the Canadian manufacturer Esporta Wash Systems Inc. that eliminates sweat, dirt, bacteria and even infectious microorganisms like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

That's another name for antibiotic-resistant 'superbugs' that can produce life-threatening infections. The business says sweaty clothing and padding containing dirt, fungi, mold, yeast mites and bacteria can be havens for the superbugs.

The cleaning process at the business, at 2038 S.E. Belmont St., uses environment-friendly, enzyme-based detergents and hydraulic pressure to limit movement and prevent damage to the equipment being cleaned. Among its biggest clients are hockey and football teams, particularly Oregon State University, which regularly sends its football helmets and shoulder pads to Northwest Clean Gear.

Helmets, gloves, skates, cleats and shoulder pads can go inside the Esporta machine. It also can clean and sanitize down-filled sleeping bags, backpacks, tents, ski boot liners and equestrian saddle blankets.

'Cleaning is preventative maintenance and helps to extend the life of your gear,' Brian Edwards says. The cost of cleaning generally is less than 10 percent of the equipment's price, or about $20 for a $200 jacket, and one wash lasts up to 20 sporting events.

Ñ Suzie Ridgway

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