My PFD is dirty on the front from

lifting dirty boats off the ground to carry on my shoulder.

What do some of you use to clean yours?

Depends what got on it

– Last Updated: Oct-08-13 11:38 PM EST –

Some days involve woody debris removal,
lots of ""organic"" green muddy yucky stuff

Other days involve items a bit more un-natural
and I switchover to actual soap for my gear

Be gentle with your gear

Just plain old dirt.
Thanks for the links.

I regularly clean…
I regularly clean my PFD & other gear in cold water without detergent. Usually with mild agitation, but sometimes there’s a vigorous agitation. Almost always finnished with a roll, though on occasion a swim. :>)

All the best, tOM

Refurbishing a PDF
I have an old Kokatat and the front was not only stained from who-knows-what and faded, however I refused to just pronounce it dead.

I used some artist acrylic paint which I had and gave it a nice coat of bright yellow and fixed a seam etc. and it’s now ready for another 10 years. The artists acrylic paint in tubes is quite flexible and perfect for that. Don’t use house paint or wall paint.

the artist acrylic paint is also good as a glue if you have to patch an area. I used some scrap synthetic cloth, and patched a bad seam with the acrylic paint.

Acrylic Paint???
Jay - Painting your life jacket??? YIKES. First before doing that, make sure it still floats you. Usually when a life jacket exterior fades, the inside has also degraded.

Shirlann - I think you might need a lesson in carrying your boat if the front of your life jacket is getting dirty from carrying your boat. When carrying your boat on your shoulder, it shouldn’t be touching the front of your life jacket at all.

Do this - while facing your boat on the ground, which should be perpendicular to you and your cockpit facing up, put the boat on it’s side with the cockpit away from you. Now position your legs so that one is behind you with the back foot parallel to boat. Drag the boat up the forward leg. With the arm that is on the side of the back leg, grab the cockpit down low and pull it against your body/waist, take your other arm and with your hand grab the inside of the cockpit across from the other hand. Do a bicep curl to pull the boat onto your shoulder. Now your cockpit edge should be resting on your shoulder.

To get the boat down, work in reverse.

The only thing that would get dirty would be your leg where you dragged the boat up.

Good detergent and scrub brush
Oh - to clean up the mess on your life jacket, try a good detergent (not one with bleach) and give the life jacket a good soak with that and now scrub with a brush.

I suspect that if you have staining that doesn’t come off it may be mold rather than stain. That comes from storing your life jacket when it is wet.

Dirt protects the nylon from UV. And
stop eating lunch in your kayak.

Dirt gives a pfd character.
Nothing worse than a brand new bright and shiny pfd. Its like a canoe without bumps and scrapes. Embarrassing if you ask me. First thing I do when I get a new pfd is to get it wet and roll around in some mud. The only thing that might cause me to wash my pfd is fish slime/guts and only because it will attract bears. :-).

A few things to avoid
Definitely would want to avoid dry cleaning

  • solvents and the heat can disintegrate the foam.

    Definitely avoid throwing it in a dryer
  • heat will quicken disintegration of the foam.

    Definitely avoid continual compression
  • using as a pillow or a seat cushion compromises foam.

    Definitely avoid the extreme sunlight for drying
  • ultraviolet doesn’t do nylon fabric any favors.

Scrub & spray…

– Last Updated: Oct-10-13 10:51 AM EST –

1. Apply mild detergent to vest.
2. Scrub it into the fabric of the pfd with stiff, bristle brush.
3. Do not rinse......yet.
4. Go to car wash; rinse with high pressure water(no soap).
5. Air dry vest in garage, or similiar location; not in direct sunlight.

Once every year or two should be sufficient.


P.S. Car wash: Best place there is to clean clothes you've used in caving.

McNett wet/dry suit shampoo.
My PFD gets a periodic bath with my dry suit in the tub with McNetts, then a couple rinses. No problems so far.

It occurs to me that I’ve never washed
the Lotus Sherman I bought about 15 years ago. It doesn’t smell (though I usually do), and it shows very little soiling.

This has been my life jacket for river trips in dozens of trips in the Lower 48.

What are you people DOING to your life jackets? Slobs.

I plead guilty.

I had the same thought.

Me Too
I don’t lift boats up to my shoulder - no dirt. I get upside down a lot - lots of rinsing.

Plain old dirt?

– Last Updated: Oct-10-13 1:56 PM EST –

Wash it as soon as you get home. I take mine in the shower and just rinse with plain water most times. If there's dirt ground in, I use regular bar soap, since that removes sunblock residues that might end up on the PFD from face or arms.

I don't think dirt particles per se are the real problem, but oils that might be in the grease. One place I used to paddle had so many powerboats that the water along the edges sometimes had a real sheen to it. Detergent will remove oils, but you can try bar soap first as it is milder and might work well enough.

One more thing: Based on removing oily or dirty stains from regular clothing, do NOT use hot water when washing it off, unless you are soaking detergent on the stains first. Use cold water. Apparently, heat can help the stain set permanently. I've gotten tea and cola spots out by *immediately* washing with cold water. But if I miss a spot, the next normal wash-dry routine with a warm/hot dryer makes it a permanent stain.

Haven’t tried it on a pfd,
But a Mr. Clean magic eraser cleans EVERYTHING!

Suzannah, not necessarily,

– Last Updated: Oct-12-13 9:51 PM EST –

when you're only 5'2" and a boat is heavy. But then, I'm not always the most graceful person. I just get out and enjoy life. But thanks for the input.
PS--It's not mold as the PFD is hung up on a padded hanger as soon as I get back from paddling.

g2d, good answer!