How to Clean Life Jackets

How to Clean Life Jackets
Whether by kayak, canoe or whitewater raft, when it comes to aquatic sports, you often trust your life to your life jacket. Keep a life jacket in working condition involves a bit of regular maintenance to ensure continued cleanliness and usefulness. A number of bad things can befall a poorly treated life jacket, from mildew to fraying. Thankfully, maintaining a life jacket doesn't have to be onerous or burdensome. All it takes is the right treatment and the proper cleaning methods.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Hose Wash bucket Mild detergent Scrub brush Sponge High-pressure nozzle Clothes hanger
  • Hose
  • Wash bucket
  • Mild detergent
  • Scrub brush
  • Sponge
  • High-pressure nozzle
  • Clothes hanger
Step 1
Wet your life jacket with the hose. Life jackets always benefit from a good rinse. Spraying your jacket down with a hose will remove any large impurities or surface dirts before washing the jacket in standing water.
Step 2
Fill wash bucket with cold water and mild detergent. You want to use less detergent than you would for an equivalent item of clothing. The idea is to have mildly soapy water that will disinfect your life jacket but not be too harsh on the specialized materials.
Step 3
Scrub mildew and stain areas with a coarse brush.
Step 4
Focus on the straps. Use the brush or sponge to scrape out grit from clips. Tighten and loosen the straps a few times to work out any dirt that might be trapped between the plastic clips and the fabric straps. During cleaning is a good time to check for fraying and other wear around the straps.
Step 5
Dunk vigorously, and wash the surface with a sponge. This should be enough to remove minerals and salts that build up on the surface of your life jacket after use.
Step 6
Rinse with the hose and high-pressure nozzle. Rinse thoroughly to make sure that all the detergent has been removed from the jacket.
Step 7
Hang your life jacket to dry in a shaded but well-ventilated location. Sun and heat can warp the flotation material and fabric, so make sure never to use artificial means of drying or sun drying. Store only after the jacket is completely dry.

Tips & Warnings

Make sure to rinse with cold water after every use, particularly if you are using the life jacket in seawater.
Have your life jacket tested at the beginning of every aquatic season by a reputable dealer.

Article Written By Louie Doverspike

Based in Seattle, Louie Doverspike has been a professional writer since 2004. His work has appeared in various publications, including "AntiqueWeek" magazine, the "Prague Post" and "Seattle Represent!" Doverspike holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hamilton College.

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