This can be serious equipment, so caring for quality pads will require vigilant inspections. Routine inspections of the stitching, padding and general overall condition is important.
Pay special attention to the condition of the lower 12 inches of the pads – those inches are the closest to the ice and get hit with pucks and skates and sticks and take a ton of abuse. There are times too when ice thicknesses and integrity will change from rink to rink and the pads will just pick up and soak up crap from the surface and if not maintained, your pads can turn south quick.
Watch when using any brushes and that the bristles aren’t so stiff and sharp that they fray the construction of the materials. A soft to medium bristle and a little time will go farther than a hurried job that might damage the pads.
There are various methods of treating the materials to prevent smells and to maintain their integrity. Oiled leather and Nubuck protectors and conditioners are a good idea for the various leather parts on the leg pads and for the smells, try out some gel cleaners and shampoos. Traditional show cleaners will do the trick, and some products come as a foam or gel with an applicator or cleaning pad or brush in the head of the can. Always read the instructions though first, just to make sure you know what you are dealing with.
Some use a silicon spray for synthetics to be able to more easily handle cleanings. If you are a car nut you’ll hear the little voice in your head saying not to spray Armor All on the dashboard of your car or the rubber seals in the door jams because the silicon will dry them out, but it seems to work on pads.
And last but not least, store them in a secure place, and more than just the garage if possible and definitely don’t leave them in the back of the SUV or minivan or something. Look to using the basement, bedroom, closets, anywhere that won’t be an easy target for thieves. Getting them in and out of the house is worth the small struggle.