You should wash your beekeeping jacket, suit, and gloves regularly to prevent odors and stickiness from leftover wax and honey. In hot weather, the fabric can become less breathable, making odors and discomfort worse. Grimy build-up within the garments’ fibers can prematurely damage your beekeeping gear. Perhaps most importantly, the garments will, over time, accumulate bee alarm and sting pheromones from previous days’ work. Nearly imperceptible to humans, these remain potent — and disturbing — messengers to bees.

Simply airing your beekeeping gear may help disperse alarm and sting chemicals, but washing it is even better. Follow these tips and tricks to properly wash your beekeeping clothing and gear.

How often should you wash your beekeeping gear?

Don’t believe the old tale that washing bee gear riles the bees up; it’s simply not true. Wash your protective beekeeping clothing whenever it gets soiled, including from dirt, sticky honey and propolis, or sweat. Consider also washing your bee jacket or suit after you have had a particularly contentious day with bees to rid it of any sting pheromones. Though washing your gear won’t pose issues, avoid using highly-scented washing products — who knows what bee-provoking chemical odors you may introduce.

Beekeeping suits and gloves washing instructions

While these general laundering and care tips can help keep your protective gear in top shape, always defer to the manufacturer's instructions for your beekeeping suit and gloves. These general laundering methods will apply to most beekeeping gear.

Can I wash my bee suit in the washing machine?

Most beekeeping suits and jackets are machine washable, except for the veil portion which is in danger of being bent or snagged by the main body’s zipper and closures. It’s important to choose a bee suit or jacket with a fully detachable veil so you can separate the pieces to clean them properly.

How to wash a beekeeping jacket or suit

  1. Unzip and remove the beekeeping veil from the main body — the veil portion needs to be washed separately, by hand (instructions below).
    Tip: Before completely disconnecting it, it’s helpful to mark the ends of the two zippers so you can easily see which ends go together when reassembling them. A couple of small dots will do the trick.
  2. Empty the pockets, including any debris and wax bits that got caught down in the corners.
  3. Pre-treat stains, if present:
    • Scrape off any wax you can, then pour very hot water through the garment from the back of the fabric. Do this outside where the wax can disperse without going down the drain, which can cause clogs.
    • While propolis stains are never completely removable, they can be reduced by careful use of stain remover or Charlie’s Soap — ensure you follow label directions for the best results.
    • A good pre-treater combined with a pre-soak in a product like OxiClean™ will work to remove grass stains, ground-in dirt, and body soil.
  4. Attach the hook-and-loop (VELCRO®) closures, fully loosen up any elastic cord tighteners, and zip all the zippers. Use safety pins at the top and bottom (and if needed in the middle) of the main front zippers to make sure they will stay closed during the wash.
  5. Wash according to the care-tag instructions, using the warmest temperatures allowed. The garment should not be washed with other kinds of clothing. The load should be made up of only bee clothing to avoid transferring any remaining wax, propolis, or traces of bee venom to street clothes.
  6. Choose your laundry additives wisely: Use a small amount of laundry detergent with little or no fragrances, and don’t use bleach or fabric softeners. If you need a rinse aid, use plain white vinegar.
  7. After the machine wash cycle, unzip all the zippers and loosen hook-and-loop closures and hang your bee suit to dry.

Beekeeping veil washing instructions

  1. After detaching from your suit, pre-soak your beekeeping veil using OxiClean™ or a similar product, if needed.
  2. Add a small amount of detergent to the sink and allow the garment to soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Gently swish the water through the fabric and netting; scrub the hat band with a soft brush to remove body soil.
  4. Rinse in clear water several times until the suds are gone and hang to dry.

How to wash leather beekeeping gloves

As both beginner and experienced beekeepers know, leather beekeeping gloves can get filthy after a season of bee work: covered in honey, propolis, and wax. In addition, dirty gloves may carry a heavy load of sting and alarm pheromones causing the bees extra stress. After researching and trying out various methods, we found that soaking and scrubbing with regular Dawn dish soap works the best.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Approximately two tablespoons of Dawn dish soap for soaking, plus at least one extra tablespoon to scrub them at the start of the process
  • Plastic bucket, bin, or tub
  • Cold water (it's very important to use cold water — not hot!)

Instructions for washing beekeeping gloves:

  1. Fill your bucket or tub with enough cold water to completely cover your gloves (but don't put them in the water immediately).
  2. Add about two tablespoons of Dawn dish soap and give it a stir.
  3. Put your gloves on before getting them wet and, using the extra tablespoon of soap, rub them together as if you are washing your hands. This helps to loosen and scrub away any surface dirt and grime.
  4. Now that you've scrubbed them, you can start the soaking process. Place your gloves in the tub and make sure they are saturated and submerged in the water.
  5. Leave your gloves soaking overnight.
  6. The next day, rinse the gloves in clean water.
  7. Leave the gloves in the sun or use a clothesline to dry them. Before they are completely dry, put on your gloves and flex your fingers to prevent some of the inevitable stiffness.
  8. Let them finish drying completely before storing. It will take about a day in the sun for your gloves to dry.

While these washing instructions will help your gloves look a lot better, nothing can make them look brand-new. They may be a little stiff once they’re dry, but they will "break in" again with regular use.

Keeping your beekeeping gear in top shape requires regular laundering following the manufacturer’s instructions. Our general care guidelines and tips keep your gear functioning its best, longer. For more beekeeping gear tips and instructions, explore our Beekeeper Guide.