Cleaning Body Armor

How to Clean Bulletproof Vests and Body Armor

Body armor, just like any other garment that you wear on your body, is bound to get dirty. Whether you wear your bulletproof vest under or over your ordinary clothing, it will get dirty at some point. You need to be able to properly maintain your body armor if you want it to last long. You do not want to be shopping for body armor every few months. Part of good body armor maintenance is ensuring it stays clean. 

Each body armor piece has a special manner with which to clean it. Bulletproof vests are particularly delicate when it comes to cleaning. You can easily compromise the effectiveness of your bulletproof vest if you clean it the wrong way. In the sections below, we explore how various body armor pieces should be cleaned, and the rationale behind that particular cleaning procedure.

Materials Used to Make Body Armor

Body armor comes in different types and categories. As such, many different materials are used to make body armor. Certain body armor pieces are made using particular materials. Bulletproof vests are the most popular body armor pieces. They are made of either PE (Polyethylene) or Kevlar fabrics. In some instances, carrier vests can be reinforced with ceramic or steel armor plates. The materials used to make a particular body armor piece determine how it is cleaned or washed.

The body armor cleaning conversation mainly revolves around bulletproof vests since they are the most used type of body armor. Other pieces such as helmets, need to be cleaned at some point as well. Our exploration into how body armor should be cleaned will, therefore, revolve around bulletproof vests. The ballistic materials used to make different body armor pieces are the same in most instances. Therefore, there isn’t much difference in how they should be cleaned.

Before we get into it, it is important to mention that body armor made of steel or ceramic needs to be cleaned as well. It is quite easy to clean steel or ceramic surfaces though. You just need to wipe the surface of the steel or ceramic with a wet cloth, and all the dust or debris on it will be off. Dry up the surfaces with a dry cloth one you are done cleaning them. You also need to ensure you properly store steel or ceramic body armor. Keep liquids or any sort of reactive substances away from the surface of steel body armor during storage.

Cleaning Body Armor

Kevlar Bulletproof vests and plate carriers tend to attract dust or odors after being worn for a while. Cleaning them does not have to be such a headache though. Before you start cleaning a carrier vest, ensure all armor plates and inserts are taken out of a carrier before you start cleaning it. You should also remove all the waist and shoulder straps on the vest.

These are the items you’ll need to be able to properly clean your armor. 

  • Cold Water
  • Mild detergent
  • Soft rub/sponge
  • Body armor deodorizer
  • Hook tabs

Most of the parts of a bulletproof vest need to be hand-washed, although some can be put in a washing machine. If you are using a washing machine, ensure you use the gentle cycle only. The vest should also be washed with mild detergent and cold water. The straps should not be put in water or washing machine. Gently wipe them using a damp sponge or cloth. You can use a little bit of the mild detergent on them as well. 

You may also need to use some hook tabs to hang the armor somewhere and conveniently remove any debris that might have accumulated on the Velcro attachment system. Never use bleach or fabric softener to clean the straps of the vests. Bulletproof vests should never be dry cleaned. You should not deodorant sprays or febreeze.

There are special body armor deodorizers that you can use instead of febreeze. Febreeze and other such sprays can compromise the strength of ballistic material. The deodorizers have some alcohol content that helps to kill odor-causing bacteria that might be on the armor. When you are done cleaning, lay the vest flat to dry. Avoid drying your body armor in direct sunlight. UV rays can compromise the integrity of some ballistic materials such as Kevlar and PE. You can also tumble dry it with a very low temperature.

Keep in mind that you should never use or do the following while washing body armor. 

  • Never use hot water on body armor
  • Never squeeze body armor into a small bucket or basin of water. Ensure the armor remains straightened at all times. 
  • Do not use any bleaching agent or strong detergent
  • Do not use sprays of febreeze on body armor. 

Armor plates and inserts should not be dipped in water or put in washing machines. They should be cleaned in the same manner as the straps. The plates are usually rigid, and a washing machine will easily damage them. They could even damage the washing machine. Just wipe over them with a damp cloth. You can use a mild detergent, as needed. The panels must not be taped, ironed, or tumble dried.

To prepare the solution for hand washing or wiping, mix a teaspoon of mild detergent or antibacterial soap with warm water and stir until sudsy. Dip your cloth or rag into the solution and then press it so that it releases excess liquid and remains lightly-damp. The rag should not saturate the ballistic material surface with soapy water.

The bottom line is, any part of body armor that is made of soft materials such as cotton can be hand or machine washed, but the process should always be gentle. The parts made of ballistic materials such as Kevlar and PE are better off hand sponged with warm water and mild detergent. Parts made of Cordura and nylon should be treated in the same way.

It is important that you keep a keen eye on the condition of your body armor. Body armor needs to be inspected for excess wear or damage every time you need to wear it. Damaged or worn-out body armor may not provide its original protection. If your body armor is damaged or worn out, purchase new ones.

Our products are quite durable and will serve you for a long if you take good care of them. Visit and find the many different types of body armor products that we have. Get in touch with us via the email or call 1-507-400-0490 if you have any queries. 





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