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Police & Military: How to Safely Wash & Sanitize Your Armor

September 21, 2022by Global Ozone

While out in the heat, police and military members work up a sweat—and it spreads to their gear. Just like any other garment, bulletproof vests and other types of body armor can get pretty smelly and will need some treatment to get the funk out. But, unlike regular clothes, your ballistic gear is designed to protect you, and throwing body armor into the wash could leave you vulnerable.

Ballistic Gear Safety

Body armor and bulletproof vests are designed to protect police and military while on the job, but unfortunately, improper upkeep can diminish their protective qualities. The ballistic panels inside the vest are made of strong, protective fibers that can stop a bullet—unless the material is compromised. If water and other liquids come in contact with the ballistic panels, the fibers are weakened. Cleaning your gear with water may solve your odor problem, but it will leave you with a heavy, useless vest and no ballistic protection.

Thankfully, most body armor manufacturers know police and military don’t want to trade sanitation for safety. You’ll need to be careful, but there are several methods to sanitize and deodorize ballistic gear while still maintaining a high level of safety.

How to Deodorize Body Armor

You don’t have to wear smelly body armor in order to keep yourself safe—but you will want to follow some precautions when it comes to cleaning life-saving gear. For one, you can wear layers between your skin and armor to prevent too much sweat from reaching your gear.

It’s also important to note that not all body armor is made the same way, so some materials used in your gear may require different upkeep practices than others. To ensure that your gear remains safe to use for a longer period of time, read any special care instructions that came with your gear and follow them to the letter.

It’s especially important not to soak your gear with water or other cleaning agents—your life just may depend on it. While your bulletproof vest should have waterproof seals around the ballistic panels, they could be compromised without you realizing it.

As we mentioned before, water weakens the fibers in bulletproof vests, which can leave you vulnerable. Instead, you can remove the ballistic panels from your bulletproof vest and machine wash it on a gentle cycle. Hang it up to dry and only reinsert the ballistic panels after it has completely dried. Never apply any heat to your bulletproof vest—this could also damage the ballistic panels.

When you’re in a hurry, it may be tempting to refresh your body armor with a quick spray of Lysol or Febreeze, but this can also put you in danger. Not only are aerosol particles liquids, they also contain harsh chemicals that can break down the integrity of your ballistic panels. If you’re looking for a quick fix, wipe your vest down with a baby wipe or mild detergent. Never use any harsh chemicals, like bleach, on your ballistic panels as they also deteriorate the protective materials.

Ozone for Body Armor

While it is safe to carefully clean your ballistic gear with soap and water, the best practice is to sanitize and deodorize your armor without using water or liquid soaps at all. With powerful liquid-free sanitizers like ozone, your gear will feel (and smell) brand new, and you’ll have peace of mind that your gear is still strong enough to stop a bullet.

Ozone is a naturally-occurring gas that’s even more effective than bleach and other harsh chemicals in reducing the bacteria, viruses, and molds that can live on your gear. But while ozone is a strong antimicrobial agent, it won’t contribute to wear and tear on your ballistic gear. By using a completely dry sanitizing cycle, ozone eliminates odorous germs—and still keeps the ballistic panels intact.

At Global Ozone, we’re dedicated to protecting the protectors. With our Decon Zone sanitizing chamber, your entire unit can throw their body armor into the chamber and have fresh, sanitized, safe gear in 32 minutes. Decon Zone provides the ease of a washing machine without any of the risks of submerging your gear in water.

Are you looking for a better way to sanitize and deodorize your body armor? Get in touch.