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How To Clean Your Body Armor Without Damaging It

March 04, 2024

How to Clean Body Armor Plates

Before cleaning your armor plates, always read the manufacturer instructions. You should also familiarize yourself with the material of construction and plan accordingly. Certain materials react differently than others, so it is crucial to understand what your armor is made of in order to ensure proper care is taken. Remember to clean your plates and armor separate from your carrier as the cleaning method varies and a mistake can decrease the effectiveness of your equipment. 

ballistic vest insert going into concealable body armor carrier

After removing the armor from your carrier, remove surface dirt from the plates using a non-abrasive sponge or a soft microfiber towel and cold water. Hard armor plates often have a water resistant coating, such as polyurea, which makes it easier to wipe down and maintain.

Soft armor does not necessarily feature this coating, so keep a few things in mind to know how to clean ballistic nylon. It is vital to use cold water as heat can potentially cause some deformation. Unless specifically indicated by the manufacturer, avoid using chemicals such as bleach to clean your vest package, as they can impact the integrity of the armor and decrease the effectiveness. 

Avoid soaking or submerging your armor plates; this can also impact the armor’s integrity. At this point, surface level stains or blemishes are nothing but visual markings and should not impact the ability of the armor to provide protection.  

Armor should be air dried separate from the plate carrier on a flat surface. Avoid any positions that could lead to unnecessary deformation, and dry your armor plates indoors and away from sunlight, as ultraviolet radiation has been found to compromise the integrity of many materials featured in ballistic protection equipment. 

Hand Washing Body Armor Vests 

Hand washing soft body armor vests is an essential task to maintain their effectiveness and prolong their lifespan. Most vests have removable ballistic components such as trauma plates or ballistic panels. Our soft armor ballistic packages and backpack panels are kevlar and encased in ripstop, a waterproof material, however, you should never fully submerge the ballistics in water.

The backpack panels also feature an additional outer cordura layer, which is water resistant. Both of these materials can be wiped down, but cordura is a fabric and may take longer to dry. When washing, these elements should be detached first and cleaned separately if possible. An all-in-one vest, without removable components, requires extra caution. 

It's essential to use a specialized body armor detergent or a ballistic vest cleaner, steering clear of regular detergents or bleach, which can harm the vest's protective fibers. This unique detergent is designed to cleanse dirt, sweat, and odor without compromising the vest's protective qualities and generally contains fewer harsh chemicals and is fragrance-free.

To cleanse the vest carrier, submerge it in a sink or bathtub filled with cold water and the specialized detergent, gently moving it around to loosen any dirt and grime, then rinse thoroughly and gently squeeze out any remaining water.

Finally, lay the vest carrier flat to dry in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight or heat. Do not machine wash or dry the vest as this can cause irreversible damage. By following these steps, and reading the manufacturer directions, you can ensure your body armor vest remains in top condition and provides the necessary protection when you need it most. 

How to handle odors in body armor that smell bad

Body armor that is worn day in and day out, such as the protective equipment worn by police officers, is more prone to odors caused by sweat, bacteria and other environmental factors. If your body armor has an unsavory odor, there are several things you can do to tank the stank. 

First, hand wash your outer body armor carrier with a specialized detergent or cleaning products as mentioned prior. If that is ineffective, you can try odor eliminating compounds such as activated charcoal or baking soda. Simply place a bag of either product in close proximity to the vest and let sit for a few hours or overnight. These products work to absorb and neutralize odor. 

If the odor persists, you may want to repeat the handwashing process with an enzyme based detergent specifically designed to break down organic matter and odor causing bacteria. Remember that using harsh chemicals such as bleach can damage the integrity of your body armor, so always use a specialized detergent and follow manufacturer instructions. 

For someone in a dangerous line of work, such as a police officer or military personnel, a plate carrier or body armor setup is a legitimate piece of equipment and should be treated with care. In order to get the most out of your equipment, it is recommended that you regularly clean your plates and plate carriers, as wear and tear can reduce the effectiveness of the equipment.

It is important to note that the cleaning process for armor plates is different from the cleaning process for a plate carrier, as they are constructed with different materials that require different procedures to keep clean. 

Keeping Cool in Your Vest to Sweat Less 

Staying cool while wearing a body armor vest can be a challenge, especially in hot and humid weather. Excessive sweating not only makes you uncomfortable but can also lead to unpleasant odors and stains on your vest. There are many effective ways to clean your body armor to eliminate sweat, odor, and dirt, but preventative action can reduce a lot of the work required to clean and care for your body armor. 


How to Clean an Outer Vest Carrier or Plate Carrier 

Before you clean your outer vest plate carrier, make sure to remove all armor plates, as the cleaning procedure for the plates differs from the carrier. Also be sure to remove all removable objects, such as buckles, straps, cummerbund armor or fasteners. If such equipment is not detachable, ensure it is in a secure position that will not place stress on the rest of the carrier during cleaning. 

Industry standard recommends hand washing your patrol vest with cold water and mild detergent. It is wise to avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals such as bleach, fabric softener, and scented laundry detergent, as they contain chemicals that can compromise the quality of the carrier, rendering it less effective.

It is also suggested that you avoid dry cleaning your carrier or using odor eliminating sprays such as Lysol or Febreeze. These treatments can cause materials to degrade or deteriorate, limiting the effectiveness of the carrier in life threatening situations. 

Instead, specially formulated body armor cleaning spray can be used to keep your vests and carriers clean in situations where you may not have the time to properly clean your setup. 


How to Dry Body Armor

After handwashing, make sure to properly dry your body armor to prolong the life of your equipment. Some body armor carriers come pre-shrunk, but unless specified by the manufacturer, it is recommended to air dry the armor carrier in a well ventilated area.

Make sure to dry your ballistic armor on a flat surface, and be sure to limit exposure to extreme temperatures or ultraviolet light. UV radiation can compromise the integrity of your material, so avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight while you dry your body armor setup.

Avoid rubbing or wringing out the armor, as unnecessary agitation can cause damage to the fibers of the vest. Instead, gently use the towel to blot the excess water. 

Avoid machine drying your body armor or carriers, as high heat can lead to deformation and therefore reduce the effectiveness of your armor. Dry cleaning should also be avoided, as the chemicals used in the dry cleaning process are harsh and can damage your equipment.

Ensure your body armor is completely dry before use or storage, as storing damp body armor can lead to the growth of mold or mildew. 


How to keep a police vest from smelling

If you work in the line of duty and routinely require the protection of a bulletproof vest or body armor setup, it is likely your armor will start to smell with continual use. To combat this, there are a few different methods outside of regular cleaning that can be more efficient and effective than a full blown wash.

Many people use body armor deodorant, which utilizes odor eliminating compounds to leave your armor odor free. Common bullet proof vest sprays include Arrest My Vest, FunkAway, and Battle Sports Odor spray. These compounds work by deodorizing your duty vest to ensure you smell good even in situations where extended wear is necessary. 


Body Armor Cleaning Tips 

Properly cleaning your bulletproof vest or plate carrier setup is essential for maintaining its effectiveness and extending the life of the product. While it is not a particularly difficult task, there are some important distinctions to be made, and failing to do so can impact the quality of the equipment, which in turn negatively impacts the life saving ability of the armor. Here are some helpful body armor cleaning tips:

  1. Read the Care Instructions
  2. Don’t soak your armor
  3. Spot-clean your armor with mild detergent
  4. Lay armor flat to dry
  5. Machine wash your carrier, unless manufacturer directions say otherwise
  6. Lay carriers flat to dry

Read the Care Instructions On Your Body Armor 

Before you attempt to clean your body armor, be sure to carefully review the care instructions provided by the manufacturer. They provide specific guidance on how to best care for your body armor, and recommend cleaning methods and any precautions to follow.

Adhering to these instructions ensures that your equipment is properly cleaned and cared for without causing any damage. 

Don’t Soak Your Body Armor 

When cleaning your body armor, avoid soaking it in water or any cleaning solution. Excess moisture can damage the materials and break down ballistic fibers, inhibiting the protective ability of the armor. It is also suggested to avoid hot water in the cleaning process, as hot water can cause deformation to occur and compromise the vest’s performance. 

Spot-Clean Your Armor

If there are noticeable stains or blemishes on your armor that you wish to remove, use a non-abrasive sponge or cloth dampened with water or a mild detergent and gently spot-clean the affected areas. Be sure to rub the cloth or sponge in a circular motion to lift dirt and debris. Avoid using excessive force or harsh cleaning chemicals. 

Lay Flat vs. Hang Dry Your Body Armor

After you have cleaned your body armor, it is essential to properly air dry the armor to reduce the risk of deformation. It’s best to lay your armor flat to dry in a well-ventilated area, and avoid direct sunlight and high heat as UV radiation can cause the protective materials to degrade.

Laying the armor flat reduces the chance of any unnecessary stretch in the material. If you do not have anywhere to lay your armor, you can hang dry using a sturdy, thick hanger that will reduce creases. 

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