How to care for your fencing lame
When my son started fencing, I was terrified of damaging the lame. I treated it as a delicate piece of equipment and didn't wash it. Needless to say, he blew through his lames rapidly.
Even though he had 2 lames, one for practice and one for competition, the competition lame would fail equipment checks at tournaments within 6 months of purchase, sometimes sooner.
After complaining to our equipment vendor in San Francisco that lames didn't seem to last, she firmly advised me to hand wash the lame often with mild detergent.
Since I started washing his lames regularly, my son's competition lame has lasted more than 18 months. It's still in great condition. I had to get him a new one because he outgrew it. Surprisingly, the practice lame is also still going strong.
The wire threads on lames are tough, and don't break easily. The dead spots on lames are most frequently caused by dirt overlays on or jammed in between the wires. The dirt is easily removed through regular hand washing. Never machine wash the lame!
During the fencing season, I wash both the practice lame and competition lame once a month. I have found the kitchen sink to be the most convenient place to hand wash the lame.
Clean the kitchen sink and drainage opening thoroughly to remove grease and other dirt.
Fill up the sink with warm water, and add in a generous dash of mild detergent. I usually use Woolite or 365 brand natural detergent. Any mild detergent will work.
Fully submerge the lame in the water, wire side out for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how dirty the lame is.
Once soaking time is over, inspect the lame for visible dirt marks and gently rub the area with your thumb to remove the dirt. You can also try using a very soft toothbrush to gently remove the dirt marks. If the marks don't come off easily, just leave them. With some brands of lames, marks left by weapon contact cannot be removed - these marks do not affect the lames conductivity.
Green stains around the neck area are very tough to remove once they accumulate, and I don't try to clean them off. Regular washing will prevent those green stains from accumulating in the first place.
Do not scrub the lame or attempt to rub the fabric together as these actions can damage the wires.
Drain the sink, and re-fill it with clean warm water. Dip the lame in and out of the water to rinse off the detergent. Drain the sink and repeat the rinsing process until the water in the sink is clear. I usually repeat the process about 4 times. To make sure there is no detergent remaining on the lame, I run the lame under the tap once.
Place the lame on a hanger lining side out, and hang it up to dry. Water will drip off the lame, so hang it in the bath tub or shower stall. I usually place the lame on a hanging rack by the window with a bowl under it. The lame dries off within a few hours.
Except when travelling, it's advisable to keep the lame on a hanger at all times. If you must pack it in the fencing bag for the commute to the club, place it back on a hanger as soon as you get home. Keeping the lame on a hanger minimizes friction on the wires which can lead to damage.
When we travel, I pack the lame with lining out and place a t-shirt on the inside to prevent the wires from rubbing against each other. Place the lame near or at the top of the bag to minimize weight on it.
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