How to Clean Life Jackets

How to Clean Life JacketsWhether 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, cleaning a life jacket doesn't have to be onerous or burdensome. All it takes is the right treatment and the proper sanitizing methods.

Life Jacket Cleaning Process

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • 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 dirt before washing the jacket in standing water.
Step 2
Fill wash bucket with cold water and mild detergent. Revivex Pro Cleaner is ideal for life jackets, but you can use any mild detergent or outerwear cleaner. Use less detergent than you would for an equivalent item of clothing. The idea is to have mildly soapy water that will help 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, then 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.

Additional Tips to Sanitize a Life Jacket

Additional tips you may find to be helpful when you're looking to clean a life jacket include: 

If your life jacket is very moldy, mildewed, or smelly, you may need more than just detergent. In this case, mix a solution of 1/3 to 1/2 hydrogen peroxide and the rest water. Either soak the jacket in the solution or pour or spray it onto areas with visible mold and mildew. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Scrub, rinse, and then follow the life jacket cleaning steps listed above.  
Instead of using a peroxide solution, you can also soak a moldy or smelly life jacket in a saltwater solution. Use a half cup of salt for every liter of water to create the solution. Let your life jacket soak in the solution for 12 to 24 hours. After soaking, scrub, rinse, then follow all steps in the life jacket cleaning process. 
There are other ways to get rid of mold that you can also try, including a variety of options for making DIY homemade mildew cleaner. Feel free to try any such options.
Once you get your life jacket clean, be sure to properly maintain it. You'll need to rinse your life with cold water after every use, particularly if you are using the life jacket in seawater. Always hang it to dry and allow to dry completely. This is critical to prevent mold and mildew from developing again.

Disinfect and Protect Your Life Jacket

It's important to properly clean, disinfect and dry your life jacket after each use. Otherwise, it could easily become moldy and unusable. Follow these instructions and tips to keep your personal flotation device (PFD) clean and in good working condition for many years to come. 

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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