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How to Clean Life Jackets

Views: 6     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2021-01-17      Origin: Site

How to Clean Life Jackets

Springtime is great for cleaning life jackets, just before they're ready for outdoor use. Sometimes the life jackets are put away from winter and they haven't had the chance to completely drying out, meaning that they can have mildew or mold growth. Also, southern locations where it is not humid or hot throughout the year mean that the life jackets have spots in them. While it doesn't appear very good, it doesn't mean that the jacket must be thrown. They just require little bit of cleaning and should get completely dried off before use.


There are different ways of efficiently cleaning a life jacket and some show incredible results as your jackets shine just like new ones. However, some other wrong ways are also there for cleaning life jackets, and a few of these are next to useless. Before knowing how to clean life jackets, firstly, let's know about the dos and don'ts of life jacket cleaning and the tips for providing a great appearance and smell, without affecting its lifespan or efficiency.




What to Do

  • Make sure to always have air-drying for the PFD after its use. Keep it in a good ventilation area, away from direct sunlight.

  • If you're hanging the jacket inside, you can make use of rotating fan for speeding the process while avoiding mildew.

  • After using the jacket in saltwater make sure to rinse jackets with fresh and clean water after use.

  • Make sure to rinse off sand, mud along with any visible stains quickly after use.

  • All life jackets should get cleaned if stains such as food, mud, or sunscreen remain visible and are not washed off only with water.

  • All life jackets must have monthly cleaning or during the season's end as it's fabric catches oils from the skin and skincare products.

Mens Life Vest

What to Avoid


  • Don't clean it with strong detergents, machine wash, or dry cleaning process.

  • Never dry the PFD by placing it close to direct heat sources or keeping it inside the clothes dryer.

  • Avoid placing your life jacket inside a standard cloth washer. The foam would easily break down through heat and agitation and the jacket will render as useless.

  • Have a little inspection of the life jacket after each use. Visit an outfitter nearby if you're not sure about how to check the life jacket.

  • Only use cold water for rinsing the jacket

  • Avoid using the chlorine bleach directly inside the jacket as it seriously breaks down interior foam and the fabrics.

  • Note that you shouldn't use any harsh chemical for cleaning the PFD. Life jackets are made up of lightweight and durable materials. Make sure to only make use of soap and mild detergent and a sponge for cleaning the personal flotation device.

  • Never attempt life jacket cleaning with industrial cleaning agents or anything like paint thinner, gasoline, or acetone. These dissolve foam making the device functional and they also weaken exterior fabric.

  • Never blend life jackets or avoid placing heavy objects on the top as these lead to crushing and can negatively affect the jacket performance.



Cleaning Process

  • Lay Tarp on the ground and then fill bucket with cold water with liquid detergent in 2 tablespoons quantity.

  • Place your life jackets, with all the hardware and straps, while keeping unfastened on the tarp and you can also scrub on jacket surface through soft brush and detergent solution. For getting rid of tough stains like food or red mud, you can apply detergent dab (not beach) directly to the stain. You can work it in with brush and let the jacket sit for around 15 minutes before you rinse it.

  • When the jacket catches mildew or mold, you can move it to outer area while brushing all the visible spores before making the fabric wet. Scrub it and add up and add up 1/4 cup oxygen bleach in the solution. This helps in dark stain removal.

  • Rinse the solution well through the use of hose along with clean water, and smoothen fabric for ensuring that you've rinsed all crevices.

  • Now hand jacket for drying up, but avoid its contact with direct sunlight.


After these life jackets seem dry while touching, you can look for shrinkage and puckering. Always be sure that water isn't getting caught in interior foam and no mildew like odor is present.

Store your life jackets in a cool, dry, and dark place.


Be sure that the PFDs completely get dry before you store these in little spaces on the plastic bin or boat.


When you're not sure, you can consult the manual of the life jacket or the website of the manufacturer.


Cleaning with Salt

  1. Make a water and salt solution. Make sure to have enough water for submerging the jacket. Add around one cup of salt for each liter.

  2. Soak the jacket inside the solution for a whole day.

  3. Remove life jacket from solution while scrubbing it all over, and also paying certain attention to areas affected with mildew or mold.

  4. Rinse with clean water

  5. Find an outdoor spot and hang it.


The method for how to clean life jackets is handy but doesn't guarantee complete mold removal.


Cleaning Life Jackets with Detergent and Soap

What you require for cleaning Life Jackets:

  • Regular Sponge: Daily use sponge is fine

  • Large Plastic Bucket: Get a large nice bucket (mainly 5 gallons or much larger)

  • Detergent or soap: Traditional dish cleaning kitchen soap works well

  • Large size plastic bucket: This can be 5 gallons or of larger size

  • Hose it with spray/shower set: Similar to a conventional garden hose having high-pressure setting

  • Soft Bristles brush: If you've got an old toothbrush it will be handy for the job 


Step by Step Process of Cleaning Life Jackets

This is a step by step guide on cleaning life jackets. Before you start storing the life jackets, be sure that these remain in dry state. This reduces effects of mildew and mold.


  1. Fill the large bucket full of water until it fills up till 75%. Before you fill out the bucket, you need to add little detergent or doubles of soap or dish to the bucket bottom. To avoid frothy water, you must try not to add a lot of detergent. You'll have to protect the life jacket materials, so you only have to put up enough soap for mildly cleansing PFD/life vest.

  2. Before you've put the life jacket inside the water bucket, you need to either hold this up or simply need to hang it with something. Now, you'll have to hose the life jacket down for removing gunk build up from before. Also, use it in high-pressure setting when there are build-ups that can't easily get off. Move to step 3 if you're not able to remove these.

  3. Now, place the life vest inside the soapy cold water bucket.

  4. Use the brush for lightly scrubbing anything that does not come off with hose. Also, you can make use of sponge while you're in this step as well. Also, be careful not to damage any material and remain gentle with the life jacket.

  5. You can get a hang, or hold the jacket, once you're done with scrubbing down the debris.

  6. Now hose down your life vest for removing any remaining soap residue. Here the idea is removing out any residue so it does not stay on the life jacket and poses any threat to the jacket materials.

  7. Hang the personal floatation device outside for letting it dry. Also don't leave this in direct sunlight as this reduces overall quality and also damages life of the jacket. Now hang life jacket in a ventilated area. You'll also be able to dry out the life jacket while you're indoors.

  8. Finally, you need to wait until the life jacket becomes 100% dry prior to again storing it. Unlike other make sure to not put away the jacket. You'll have to ensure total dryness, otherwise, you're just inviting a lot more mildew and mold for the upcoming season.


After all the aforementioned steps are completed, you'll notice a very clean and smooth life jacket that looks like a newly bought one. Now, you can store the life vest for the entire season as long as the PFD gets completely dried out. Even when only a little moisture is present, having life preserver in the closed space results in mildew and mold related issues. Not only you negatively impact the life of your personal floatation device, but this also makes way for another lengthy life jacket cleaning session shortly.


This was a detailed guide on how to clean life jackets. While cleaning, ensure being gentle in the process, and ensure proper care of the life vests for lengthening their life. People store these in wrong places, and not cleaning them is generally the main reason for their wear and tear over time.


If you often store your life jacket, you need to be sure that you're not bending or folding it in an unnatural manner. This just damages the whole design of the life vest while diminishing the life span. Thus, storing life jackets while hanging up is great for circulating airflow around these.

Also of Interest: 

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