We are aware that ballistic vests save lives and that body armor is a need for every law enforcement personnel. But what must you know to extend the life of this lifesaving garment?
It is not difficult to properly maintain your body armor, but it is necessary to do so. It is also essential that your armor fits properly; check out this video for suggestions on armor fitting.
Here are seven dos and don’ts for the appropriate cleaning and maintenance of body armor to ensure that your ballistic vest remains in good condition for as long as feasible.
Read The Care Instructions
Most of us do not bother to read the instructions that accompany a new item. Whether you get instructions with your vest or must download them separately, it is essential that you read and adhere to them to avoid accidentally injuring your vest and voiding the warranty. Cleaning and storing your armor should be described in the manufacturer’s instructions.
“We provide maintenance instructions with every vest we ship so that the officers who get them are aware of the errors that might damage the Kevlar aramid fibers,” said Ace Laserna, national armor sales manager for Propper, a company that sells a variety of ballistic vest alternatives.
“It is crucial that cops read the instructions carefully and follow them to the letter if they want to obtain the most advantage and safety from their vests for years,” he added, “since we cannot guarantee that the vests will function correctly if they do not follow the instructions.”
Don’t Get The Armour Wet
Soft ballistic armor can deflect a bullet, but it cannot be washed in a washing machine. Kevlar/aramid panels are often encased in a waterproof sleeve, which is subsequently fitted into an internal or external carrier. Assuming the watertight seal has not been compromised, it is OK to moisten the ballistic insert without causing fiber damage.
However, Laserna advises against immersing the insert in case the seal has been compromised. Submerging a tightly woven fabric such as Kevlar in water will cause the material to loosen and deteriorate.
“We recommend keeping the whole insert dry to minimise water ingress in the event that the seal is compromised,” he added. “When the fibres slack and split, the protection will be lost. When the weave begins to loosen, bullets can get through. This material cannot perform its function if the fibres have become too loose.”
In conclusion, cleaning your soft armor will transform it into a heavy fabric with little ballistic value, therefore do not wash it. (Neither should it be dry cleaned, says Laserna.)
You may wash the carrier vest on a gentle/delicate cycle by itself, but you should hang it to dry and avoid using fabric softener. Be careful to remove all ballistic panels, trauma plates, and straps, clean them individually, and only reinstall your armor once the carrier has dried fully.
Do Spot-clean Your Armour
“Do not wash your armor” does not imply that it cannot be cleaned. As with anything else you wear, your armor becomes sweaty and dirty over time and must be cleaned. You may do this using soap and water and a clean towel, then remove any extra moisture and hang the item to dry.
It is up to you how often you clean your armor. If the weather is cool and you are not perspiring, you may likely go longer between cleanings than during the humid summer months.
Use a gentle soap detergent, such as Dawn or baby wipes. Alcohol and bleach wipes can degrade ballistic materials, so avoid using them.
As you clean out your armor, thoroughly inspect it for holes or tears. If the exterior waterproof membrane is breached, the vest’s inner core can become soaked and deteriorate, therefore losing its ballistic protective characteristics.
It may be tempting to spray a foul-smelling vest with Febreze or Lysol but refrain from doing so, since these substances can also harm the ballistic material.
Do Hang Your To Dry
Laserna advises against using a washing machine, dry cleaning, and an electric dryer on the item. Let your vest air dry.
Despite the fact that NIJ certification testing covers temperature extremes, it is advisable to store your armor vest flat in a cool, dry location to extend its usable life.
Do Roll Your New Armor To Increase Comfort
Dianne Zanzottera, a former police officer and customer service expert for Propper’s armor division, recommends cops roll up a new soft armor vest to make it more comfortable more immediately, despite the instruction to store it flat.
“Sometimes I’ll get a vest here and attempt to break it in for the officer,” she explained, “because the only other way for them to break it in and make it feel comfortable is by wearing it.”
When you receive your new vest, Propper suggests that you take the ballistic panels from the carrier, roll them, and bind them with a rubber band. For a more comfortable vest, repeat the method between using two or three times in each direction, alternating between horizontal and vertical rolling.
Laserna says that care must be taken to prevent creasing the vest when rolling and unrolling it.
Do Wear A Shirtless Under Your Jacket
Ballistic vests are designed to shield the wearer from gunshots, however, they are not always comfortable. A vest designed to go over your uniform keeps the ballistic material away from your skin, but a hidden vest requires an undergarment, such as a moisture-wicking T-shirt, to prevent chafing and reduce perspiration smells.
Do Keep Your Warranty On File
Keep the documentation, including the vest’s serial number, proof of purchase, and date of purchase, in the unfortunate case that the vest requires maintenance.
These documents will also contain vital information such as the armor’s certified service life, allowing you to determine when it is time to replace it. On average, light armor should last five years and hard plates up to ten. Different manufacturers may provide varying warranties, so it’s important to check the paperwork.