Practice and FIE Uniforms
The fencing gear for épée consists of a fencing mask, glove, chest plastic protector, underarm (plastron), fencing jacket, knickers (fencing pants), and fencing socks, to cover the knee.
The body items are completed with the weapon and bodycord.
Fencing jackets for practice are made of thick cotton canvas, specially made to pass the 350-500 Newton pressure test. As a natural fabric, cotton breathes better than synthetics. However, the cotton may shrink a little after washing and it is less flexible than the synthetic models. Nevertheless, this is the most recommended type of fencing gear to start with.
All international tournaments require fencers to use FIE-approved equipment. FIE (Fédération Internationale d’Escrime, or, in English, the International Fencing Federation), is the governing body of the Olympic sport of Fencing on a global level.
FIE-approved equipment usually carries an FIE logo. USA local or national tournaments do NOT require FIE fencing equipment.
How to Care for Your Fencing Gear
Transport your jacket and gloves in a separate fencing bag compartment, separately from other equipment (especially steel weapons), to prevent rust stains. Don’t leave your sweaty jacket on dirty surfaces between uses, and hang dry after each use.
To protect your weapon/blade and for easy carry, read here how to make a hard cover out of a PVC pipe.
How to Clean Your Fencing Gear
As soon as you got your new piece of gear, check the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions (may vary from our summary, here), and wash it before use to remove any chemicals from the manufacturing processes, and any excess dye.
Soaking: Soaking the jacket can help remove stubborn stains and make machine washing more effective. Immerse the jacket in a cleaned basin, tub, or bucket with cold water and OxiClean White Revive according to their soaking instructions. Do not mix garments; soak one at a time! Use enough water to submerge the garment but not dilute the solution too much. Soak for at least an hour and repeat if necessary. If there are some really tough stains and discoloration soak the jacket with a few capfuls of Rit Whitener & Brightener. Agitate the garment occasionally in the soaking solution by hand.
Washing: All fabric items can be machine washed with cold/warm water (cold water prevents shrinking.) It’s very important to never use bleach on fencing jackets. Bleach will deteriorate the jacket’s puncture resistance. Use instead OxiClean White Revive to clean and brighten jackets. If you have sensitive skin, you may wash your garments again with a recommended detergent.
Drying: Air drying has the least chance of shrinking the jacket. If necessary use a machine dryer but on the lowest heat.
As for any stains recommendations, don’t let the stain set in.
Blot the stain as soon as possible with a dampened paper towel. Get as much of the stain out by blotting only, don’t wipe, scratch, or smear! Wash the jacket as quickly as possible after blotting the stain, but do not dry until the stain is gone. Repeat soaking, washing, or spot removing prior to drying. If you dry a jacket with sweat or spot stains it “sets them in” making them far harder to remove
Stains can be very stubborn and will tempt you to break the ‘no bleach’ rule.
Here is a safe spot removing solution, compelled of sunlight, salt, and lemon juice:
In a small bowl or ramekin stir together until mixed:
-1/3 cup room temp. lemon juice
-1 tablespoon salt
After blotting the stain (see above) and washing in OxiClean (see above), hang the garment outside and expose the stain(s) directly to the sun. Using a spoon or eyedropper, bead drops of the mixture onto the stain until saturated. Set in direct sunlight and reapply the mixture as it dries. Repeat until the stain is removed. Rotate the jacket to keep the stain directly facing the sun.
For Tougher Stains
Rust: See the above spot removing technique to clean a fencing jacket of rust stains.
Sweat: Ivory soap has been around since 1879 and is a fine product. It’s incredibly good at dissolving natural oils making it useful to remove sweat stains & body odor. If you have some particularly tough collar or underarm stains, try hand-washing the jacket with Ivory soap.
Odors: Add a cup of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate) when machine washing your garment to change the pH of the water making your detergent more effective. Detergents specified for athletic wear are also a good choice.
Blood: Spot-clean your stained garment with the above mixture as quickly as possible, and properly dispose of any materials containing blood (your or others’).
How to Clean Your Fencing Mask
Even many don’t feel the need to clean their fencing mask unless is really and obviously dirty looking, we recommend cleaning your fencing mask at least every other month. Keeping your mask clean prevents acne caused by the setting of the bacteria in the open pores while sweating. Carrying in your bag face wipes like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleansing Face Wipes (or any type of facial wipes that address your skin concerns) can be a real “face-saver”.
In case of emergencies, the fencing mask can be easily cleaned in a dishwasher, although we don’t recommend it because it may destroy the color, electrical bib (for foil and sabre masks), velcro, wires, and the mesh may rust.
If the washer heats up it could end up melting the glue that holds parts of the mask together. For lower-grade masks, it can also accelerate damage to the insulation on the mask mesh. We recommend manual cleaning over the dishwasher method, but here are the steps, if you chose to do so:
- Set dishwasher on low
- Turn off the drying cycle (or if you have an advanced machine, use a low temperature)
- Don’t use dishwashing detergent – baking soda is OK
Hand Washing Method
Remove the padding, if applicable, and dunk the mask in a big bucket with warm (not hot!) water and stain remover laundry detergent. Adding baking soda will help with removing the odors and bringing it to a brighter white.
2. Let it soak for about 20-30 minutes (for foil/sabre masks try to keep the bib out of the bucket).
3. Use a soft brush to gently scrub (avoid vigorous scrubbing especially of the electrical bibs).
4. Rinse well, squeezing material and rinsing several times until the water comes out clean.
5. Dry with a big old towel or cloth and leave it for a while in the sink to let the rest of the water drain out with the bib side up.
The padding can be both hand or machine-washed.
To dry your freshly cleaned mask, air-drying is recommended, but a hairdryer can be used when in a rush. Note that a high-temperature setting may yellow your white areas.
For a quick fix: wipe down the inside with a baby wipe, or disinfecting wipe without bleach.
Conductive masks take a longer time to dry, so make sure you’re planning your cleaning accordingly.
Caring for Your Fencing Glove
Dark, warm, and wet, the inside of sweaty gloves carry lots of bacteria happily living in them. That’s why fencing gloves often have that terribly strong odor if you put them into your training bag after fencing. Changing simple habits can greatly save cleaning time, your health, and others’ (highly contagious fungal infections).
1. Air dry your fencing gloves often
Take the glove home after training, open the Velcro and air dry it completely. Circulating air will dampen the ability of germs and bacteria to breed in there.
2. Use disinfectant sport sprays
In-between more serious cleaning, sports sprays are a lifesaver! Spray the inside of the glove and give it plenty of time to air-dry.
3. Use a paper towel or crumpled-up newspaper inside the glove
This easy trick prolongs the times in between washes! Stuff the glove with it and don’t forget to keep it fresh (change several times)
4. Freeze them in a sealed zip bag
Freezing will kill the bacteria, if not completely, then at least enough so that the odor will be significantly less noticeable. Air dry after the freezer.
5. Wash the glove occasionally
Make sure they are washable! Read the manufacturer’s notes and then the tips below.
How to wash a fencing glove
The less expensive gloves can safely be washed in a regular washer. The most expensive gloves should be always hand washed.
- Prepare warm water with hand wash detergent and dip the glove in.
- Wash it gently inside and outside by rubbing with your hands or with a soft sponge/cloth.
- Rinse well several times under running water and squeeze softly to get rid of extra water.
- Gently dab the remaining water with an old towel. Don’t wring or twist between palms (that will damage and deform the glove).
- Pull it over your hand or blow out the fingers with a fan to restore the good shape of your glove.
- Air dry or lay in the sun with the velcro open.
- Don’t wash the fencing glove in the washer with white fencing gear – gloves are generally colored and it will stain your white garments.
- NEVER put your fencing glove into the dryer. The material is changed by heat and will become soft and worn, not offering enough protection for your hand.