How to Clean Life Jackets? 5+ Methods – 2022

Whether you’re a kayaker or not, it’s important to know how to clean life jackets. Not only will it make your life jacket last longer, but it will also help keep you safe while using it. 

The simple method of cleaning the life jacket is that you should always be sure to rinse it with cold water after every use. So, keeping in mind all of your needs and requirements to clean the life jacket, just follow these simple steps mentioned below to know about what is the best way to clean life jackets?

Why Do We Need to Clean the Life Jackets?

The life jackets that we wear in our everyday lives, such as the ones worn by people who enjoy kayaking and canoeing, for instance, can become dirty after some time.

This is quite normal, but they need to be cleaned now and then – just like you do with your clothes.   

Although it’s not a complicated process, you should know that there is a right and a wrong way to do it.

How to Clean Life Jackets?

There are many reasons why you may need to clean your life jackets, one of which is that they get smelly after long periods of use. Here are some of the methods you can use to clean your life jackets:

Method 1. Life Jackets and Saltwater

If you use your life jacket in saltwater, the best way to get rid of the smell is by soaking it in freshwater. When you take it out of the water, wipe it down with a wet cloth and immediately dry it with a dry cloth to prevent mildew.

Method 2. Life Jackets and Soap

One of the most common methods for cleaning life jackets is to use soap, either liquid or bar soap. Liquid soap works better as it removes dirt more effectively than a bar of soap. You can buy special detergents that remove salt from clothes, but dishwashing liquid diluted with water works just as well.

Method 3. Life Jackets and Vinegar

Vinegar is great for cleaning life jackets because it’s cheap, non-toxic, readily available at any supermarket, and safe to use on materials like nylon. For particularly foul smells you can add baking soda to the vinegar solution for added effect. Mix equal parts vinegar with water, soak the life jacket in it for an hour or so, and then rinse. You can also add two tablespoons of lemon juice to the solution for added effect.

Method 4. Life Jackets and Ammonia

If vinegar doesn’t quite do the trick you can use household ammonia to clean your smelly life jackets. Just mix about 10 parts of water with one part ammonia, soak your life jacket in it, rinse well-using lots of freshwater, and then dry thoroughly before storing away. 

Be careful when working with this method because ammonia is a harmful chemical that can cause serious damage if inhaled or ingested in large doses. Use gloves while working with the solution and make sure there’s plenty of ventilation when rinsing off a treated life jacket.

Method 5. Life Jackets and Salt Water & Baking Soda

If your life jacket smells like fish, mildew, sweat, or anything else really nasty you can use salt water, baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar to kill all the bacteria causing the odor. Mix one part vinegar with three parts water, add two tablespoons of lemon juice and a bit of salt. Soak your smelly life jacket in it for ten minutes then rinse using fresh water that you’ve boiled on the stove first.

Method 6. Life Jackets and Drying

The best way to keep your life jackets smelling fresh is to dry them as soon as they get wet. This prevents mildew from forming on the materials used in your life jacket, which can cause odors that are very difficult to remove. Just follow these simple steps:

  • Rinse and clean the life jacket using one of the cleaning solutions mentioned above
  • Rinse using fresh water to remove all traces of soap from the life jacket
  • Hang your life jacket up or lay it flat somewhere where it can dry naturally. If you have a balcony, laying it out there will work just fine. Make sure that you’re not putting it in direct sunlight as this can cause the colors to fade.
  • Once it’s dry, store your life jacket in a cool dark place to prevent mildew from forming during storage.

Once you follow all the steps above, your life jacket will be smelling fresh and clean in no time at all!

Can You Machine Wash Life Jackets?

Life jackets can be machine washed, but you should never dry-clean them. This is because the materials used to make life jackets will shrink if machine dried or dry cleaned. Following the steps above will ensure that your expensive life jacket stays fresh and usable for a long time to come.


In the end, we hope that now you are well aware of how to clean life jackets and most importantly how to maintain them. It is always better to keep the things we use fresh and clean after every use, isn’t it? Hope you will find this method of cleaning helpful! and you can use it with your next kayaking and fishing trip


1. Do you have to buy a special kind of soap to clean your life jacket?

No, not really! There are quite a few uses for dishwashing liquid when it comes to cleaning life jackets. This is because soap will break down oils and other contaminants very effectively. Just remember that once you’re done cleaning the life jacket, you’ll need to rinse it thoroughly and wipe it down with fresh water before storing it away to prevent mildew from forming during storage.

2. How often should you wash your life jacket?

Washing your life jacket as soon as possible after getting it dirty will keep the materials inside smelling fresh and clean. Ideally, you should wash it at least once a month so that it will be clean and fresh no matter when you use it next.

3. Can you put a life jacket in the washing machine?

Yes, if your life jacket is too dirty to wash with mild soap and water by hand, then it can be safely cleaned using a washing machine instead. Just remember not to put it in the dryer after washing, and make sure you remove all of the soap from the life jacket before putting it away for storage.

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