One of the biggest questions that comes up is “how do I clean/maintain/care for my armor? While not a difficult task, properly maintained armor will last longer and provide optimum protection versus armor that is neglected or abused.

Woven-aramid based armor has only three natural enemies. The first is UV exposure. Try to keep the ballistic package out of direct sun. Indoor lighting is not great for it, especially the horrible new florescent “green” POS, but exposure is not as big a deal as direct sun.

The following presumes you are using 100% all-woven aramid body armor (which you should be anyway- more on why later).

Most concealable vests will have removable outer shells, which are typically machine washable. It sounds simple, but many folks forget to remove either the straps (which typically have patches of hook velcro on them- you just try to explain to your Wife/GF/SO that you ruined her favorite negligee…NOTHING good comes of it), or more importantly (some would argue less, after sleeping on the couch for a month) the ballistic inserts.

Throw the outer carrier in the wash. Did you take out the admin crap in the front plate pocket (you know, that pocket that *should* have a trauma plate/panel in it)? If yes, grab those bad-ass bullet stopping inner panels, ’cause it’s time to give ’em a sponge bath.

Grab some baking soda and warm water, a sponge and some dish soap. Soak the sponge in warm water, and swab the armor. No need to get it sopping wet, but make sure the vest is damp. Next, dab the sponge in the baking soda, and wipe the armor down again. Let sit for about ten minutes. This is killing/neutralizing any fungus/bacterial waste products/acids which WILL degrade the aramid (the second major enemy). Rinse the baking soda off, and mix a little bit (just a little) of dish soap in the water. Sponge down the armor once more, rinse, and let the armor dry naturally. Don’t put it in the dryer. Ever. Not even for a minute. Aramid handles heat well, but there is no reason to put undue stress on a piece of lifesaving gear.

Make sure the panels are completely dry before placing them back into the outer shell. Aramid does experience a drop in ballistic effectiveness of about 15% when wet, but this is a temporary/fully reversible property.

Under no circumstances should you expose aramid to bleach (the final enemy of aramid), which WILL degrade/destroy the fibers. Any strong acids are also not advisable, nor should you use harsh chemical cleaners. Simply not needed.

As for storage, if you are going to be wearing your armor regularly, it is ok to hang it. I recommend Tough Hook: http://www.tough-hook.com Check them out, and say goodbye to busted/bent Nancy-boy hangers.

If you are not going to wear your armor for over a month, take it off the hook, and store it flat, in a cool, DRY area with no exposure to light. Black plastic garbage bags with a dessicant pack thrown in do the job nicely.

If you do your job with preventative maintenance, your armor should last a long time, which should in turn help YOU last a long time.

For care of non-aramid laminate soft armor, or armor containing aramid/non-aramid laminates, I will be publishing a separate post in the near future. As always, don’t touch that dial.

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