Every day your body armor is expected to take care of you, and it will, but first you need to take care of it. Body armor requires regular care to keep it fresh and to prevent damage to the plates. You don’t want it broken, and you don’t want to smell like a sweaty beast.
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How Often Does Body Armor Need Cleaning?
Your body armor should receive regular attention. At the very least you should wash bullet proof vests once a week like you would with any of your other duty equipment. If you have the time, it can be washed more often but most work schedules will not allow for that.
Wash Your Plate Carrier
The first step to caring for your body armor is to wash your plate carrier regularly. Reading the label on your carrier is the best way to get the proper directions for washing the carrier. No matter what, you should always wash the carrier separately from the plates themselves. When you wash the carrier make sure that all of the Velcro is removed. The more often that Velcro is washed, the less sticky it becomes.
Most carriers recommend that you wash them on a gentle cycle with cool to cold water. When the cycle is done, do not iron your plate carriers unless the carrier specifically states you can.
A lot of people recommend having two sets of carriers, that way you can take your time when washing the first set.
Don’t Fold It, Store It
Body armor is designed to be stored in either a carrying case or on a hanger. What it isn’t designed to do is fold. Folding your body armor can significantly reduce its effectiveness. You might even permanently damage it by folding the armor.
To hang a vest with heavier armor, make sure that your hanging rod is up to the task. Also use stronger coat hangers such as the wooden ones. Don’t use the thin metal ones.
Your armor storage place should be room temperature and not near a heat source. The storage area should also be shielded from direct sunlight to protect the vest.
Wipe Off Your Plates
Your plates need cleaning even though they are inside a carrier. Take a damp wash cloth and wipe them clean on the front and back. Do not use too much water as you do not want to risk damaging the plates with water. If your armor is exceptionally dirty you can use a small amount of dish soap to ensure a thorough clean. Make sure that it is all removed.
Another option for wiping the plates down is to use a sponge. Sometimes a sponge can be more effective.
Do not use the following cleaning (actually reported) methods for your plates/armor:
- Laundry Machine
- Pressure Washer
Inspect Your Body Armor While Cleaning
Besides cleaning, you typically don’t spend too much time looking at your body armor. While you are cleaning it, take the time to look it over. Inspect your armor for rips, tears, bumps, or any other deformities. Use more than your eyes and run your fingers along your carrier and plate to check for the same things.
If anything appears out of the normal, take a closer look.
Don’t Use Chemical Cleaners
Don’t use chemical cleaners on your plates or plate carrier. Your plates are sealed against liquids, but that seal might be broken by chemical cleaners. Especially cleaners such as Clorox or 409. Do not use bleach on any part of your bullet proof vest, including the carrier. Once again, a simple we cloth is all that is needed to get your armor clean.
If you take care of your body armor, it will take care of you. This is just like everything else you encounter in life. Use these simple tips to help keep your armor clean. You also will prevent yourself from emitting unpleasant odors.