The invention of the bulletproof vest has been a major achievement. In past years, many law enforcement officers have been saved from fatal injuries because they wore bulletproof vests.
Although bulletproof vests are effective against bullets, they are still susceptible to bad smells. After wearing a ballistic vest for some time, it starts to accumulate a stench.
Many people don’t wash their vests because they’re worried about damage. However, it’s possible to clean your vest without any damage. As you read this post, you’ll learn how to wash a bulletproof vest with ease.
Technicalities of a Bulletproof Vest
Bulletproof vests are made of tough materials that can withstand the impact of bullets. To wash a bulletproof vest effectively, you need to understand its parts.
A bulletproof vest can be categorized into soft material and hard material. Soft material refers to the parts made with cotton or similar materials. Hard material refers to ballistic materials, like plates or Kevlar.
It’s important to differentiate these parts because you’ll need the knowledge when washing them.
Most people fear washing their vests for some reason, maybe damage or they’re worried about breaching their warranty.
Keep your vest intact and free of smell with the right steps. As we proceed, you will see some effective and safe methods you can use to keep your vest clean and stench-free.
How to Wash a Bulletproof Vest
A bulletproof vest is unlike your regular one: you can’t just dump it in your machine and leave it. The rigid parts of the vest can damage the machine, and the machine can damage the vest’s ballistic plates.
So, how can you wash a bulletproof vest?
Follow these instructions:
Check the Care Instructions
The first and most important step to wash a bulletproof vest is to check the instructions. Every vest comes with instructions printed in certain areas: they’re often on the back of the vest. These instructions include cleaning advice and how to use the vest.
Always check the vest for instructions, to be on the safe side. The instructions give you a good idea of what to do and what not to do. Although the cleaning options might not be limited to the instructions, they’ll still give you a basic idea of what to do.
Inspect Your Vest
Washing your vest does more than removing the smell – it’s also a good opportunity to inspect it fully. Bulletproof vests are prone to wear and tear over time, and the smallest damage could be life-threatening.
You might not have the opportunity to inspect your vest daily, but you can do this when washing. Take your time to check the carrier vest, ballistic panels, straps, and other parts of the vest. Once you’re sure there’s no damage, you can start the washing process.
Take It Apart
The washing process starts with separating the parts of the vest. The vest consists of the vest carrier, straps, and armor or ballistic plate.
The carrier is made with soft materials, and you can wash it with your hands or through the washing machine. However, the straps and armor plates should never touch the water.
Washing the Vest
After checking the instructions, start the cleaning process. There are different methods to clean your vest: you can hand-wash, machine wash, or spray wash.
Hand washing your vest is the safest method, but it requires some work. To perform this process, you’ll need a rag, warm or cold water, antibacterial soap or mild detergent, and a hanger.
When washing the vest with your hands, you can wash all the parts of the vest without worrying about damage. You can also use your hands to wash the parts unsuitable for machine wash.
To hand wash, you first need to prepare your soap solution. Prepare warm or cold water in a large bowl, and add your antibacterial soap. Ensure the bowl is large enough for the vest.
After preparing your bowl, prep the parts of the vest on a heavy-duty hanger: keep in mind that ballistic vests are quite heavy, and regular hangers might break under their weight. After suspending the vest, dip your rag in your soap solution.
Squeeze out the excess water from the damp cloth and use it to wipe your vest. Avoid water pooling on the surface of the vest: it can damage the seal. Also, don’t use any bleaching agent or fabric softener.
We recommend hand-washing the straps, velcro attachments, and plates.
You can wash some parts of your vest using a machine, and these are referred to as soft materials. Soft materials include the vest carrier and other parts not made with ballistic materials.
However, you should still be careful with your vest when washing with a machine. Ensure you set your machine to a gentle cycle, and use only cold or slightly warm water.
Remember to leave the ballistic parts off of the machine. The armor plates can damage the machine, and the straps can lose effectiveness. Once you’re done washing, take the vest out and don’t let it soak inside the machine.
Spraying is another convenient way to clean your vest, but it’s not as effective as hand or machine washing. Some special vest sprays are designed for cleaning and disinfecting your vests.
These sprays have antibacterial components and also leave a pleasant after smell. However, you must be careful regarding the sprays: ensure you get one from a trusted brand. Also, spray cleaning is unsuitable for long-term use, and you’ll need to wash your vest afterward.
Now that you’re done washing, the difficult part is behind you. Drying the vest is very easy to do: let it air dry. A ballistic vest is a very sensitive protective gear, and the slightest damage could cost a life.
Some vests have specific drying instructions, which is why it’s important to check the instructions. It’s very easy to damage your vest if you don’t dry it properly.
It would be best if you hung your vest to air dry unless the instructions say otherwise. Note that air drying doesn’t require direct heat.
You should never place your bulletproof vest under direct sunlight, or any other heat source. The heat can damage the seals on the plate and render the vest ineffective.
Also, don’t use your machine or a hand dryer to dry your vest. You should only dry your bulletproof vest by air drying.
If we’re being realistic, it’s not convenient or advisable to wash any bulletproof vest too often. However, they also have to be cleaned because of the smell, and you can solve this problem by spot-cleaning.
You can keep your vest tidy for a long time by spot cleaning. Spot cleaning involves cleaning stains and spots each time you remove the vest. The best part about spot cleaning is you can do it every day, and it doesn’t require much work. All you need is a damp rag.
If you build the habit of cleaning stains and dirt after removing your vest, you will maintain a clean, odor-free vest for a while.
After washing and drying your body armor, the way you store it is also important. Proper storage can increase the longevity of the vest. Let’s look at some important storage tips:
Store in a Cool, Dry Place
As we mentioned earlier, bulletproof vests are affected by heat: the heat can damage the seals and the plates. You should keep this in mind when storing your vest. Look for a cool, shaded room with a good amount of ventilation.
The position you leave the vest in is also critical. Some body armor manufacturers will tell you to leave the vest flat, and others say to suspend the vest. The point is for you not to squeeze or fold the vest, so damage to the panels is prevented.
Also, don’t use the straps if you’re hanging your vest. The vest is heavy, and hanging it with the straps can cause them to slack. Instead, get a heavy-duty hanger or hook and use it to suspend the vest.
The point of the bulletproof vest is to stop bullets from penetrating the body, which will be ineffective if there is prior damage to the vest.
Constantly check your vest before heading out for the day. It’s also advisable to inspect the body armor after every use. The slightest damage in a vest can cause fatal damage, so utmost caution is required.
Bulletproof vests are priceless protective gears that have saved many people. However, while the vest can stop a bullet, it can’t stop a stench buildup. If your line of work warrants using a bulletproof vest, you’ll be quite familiar with the stench after a while.
On the bright side, you don’t have to put up with the smell. Instead, you can follow our steps on how to wash a bulletproof vest and enjoy the freshness. You can also check out some other interesting info about guns and other firearms here.
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