A Guide to Looking After Your Body Armor
SafeGuard CoolMAX Carrier
As any Security Operative will be aware, body armor is a wide-ranging term that covers a number of products, and understanding exactly which is best for you can be difficult. Being aware of the different options available to you allows you to better understand how to keep yourself protected. However, even after you have chosen the correct style and level of protection according to the environments you will find yourself in, it can be difficult to know how best to care for your armor. Many overlook the need to keep body armor properly maintained, but unless you do, you cannot be assured of your protection.
While there are specific things to consider when it comes to body armor, it can largely be seen as any other item of clothing- albeit a particularly valuable and important piece. This means that like any clothing it needs to be washed and stored properly to ensure its quality and integrity. Unlike clothing however, any damage or deformity can prove to be deadly, and cannot be ignored. It is imperative therefore that when cleaning and drying a vest you take the time to inspect it for any damage. If it is at all damaged, it should not be worn, ad must be replaced immediately.
Body armor is made of multiple parts: the protective inserts, which are usually made of soft fabrics with an incredibly high strength-to-weight ratio, like Kevlar, and the carrier itself which can be made from a wide range of materials and is designed to keep the protective inserts in the correct position on your body. Both parts of the vest are important, and should be treated with care. However, each has specific requirements that need to be met, and they must be separated before cleaning.
Cleaning your vest is so important for a number of reasons. Firstly, having a dirty vest is simply unpleasant. If your vest is offensive to the eyes or nose, you may refrain from wearing it. This would leave you without protection, which is simply not an option. Secondly, a dirty vest can breed germs and potentially bring about illness. For simple hygiene, a vest should be cleaned regularly. Most importantly, however, is the effect cleaning can have on your protection.
If you allow your vest to become dirty it can inhibit the protection offered by the fabrics inside. Just as extended exposure to adverse weather conditions can disintegrate Kevlar, if it is allowed to get too dirty the fibers within can break down, meaning your protection is no longer guaranteed. However, you must be careful when washing to avoid submerging or otherwise getting the Kevlar damp, as this may also reduce its effectiveness. The carrier can often be machine washed, but the protective inserts should be cleaned with a non-abrasive cleaner and sponge.
The vest must also be dried properly, again to avoid any moisture from settling within the vest and degrade the materials. Unlike machine washing, no part of the vest should be tumble dried. Instead, both the protective inserts and the carrier should be hung out to dry. Following this, a vest should be stored just as carefully, allowing nothing heavy to be placed on top of it, and keeping it flat and unfolded. Following these steps allows for your vest to be in its best possible quality.
The advice listed above is not the result of simply being cautious, and does indeed sound overly careful when it comes to your body armor. However, it is important to follow these steps as you cannot afford to take chances with such an important piece of equipment. Changing its shape in any way means it may no longer fit properly, making it uncomfortable at best, and at worst leaving you with gaps in your protection. Similarly, a damaged vest can no longer guarantee your protection.
Following the steps above allows you to stay safe and comfortable, and means you can perform to the best of your ability safe in the knowledge that your vest will protect you.