One of the hardest parts of keeping yourself protected with body armor is understanding exactly what your vest can protect you against. There are a variety of products available, all with advantages and disadvantages. However, whatever vest you decide is best for you, it is important that it is cared for properly, in order to ensure it keeps you protected. Many people do not know exactly how a bullet proof vest should be maintained, and the following guide offers a brief explanation.
As a simple guideline, body armor should be treated like any other article of clothing; it needs to be washed and stored properly. Unlike clothing, however, any damage or deformation should not be ignored. Firstly, it is important to keep a vest clean. While a dirty vest may not necessarily diminish its protective qualities, it can make it uncomfortable or unpalatable to wear. This is important, as a vest should never not be worn simply because it is dirty. Therefore, you should keep your vest clean.
Body armor is usually made of multiple parts: the protective inserts, usually made from soft fabric like Kevlar, and the carrier itself, which houses the protective materials and can be made from anything from cotton to special temperature-regulating materials. Each of these parts has its own specific cleaning instructions, and care must be taken not to damage either.
The carrier of a vest can be washed according to the instructions associated with the material. For example, if it is made of cotton, it can usually be machine washed like any cotton clothing. However, if it is made from more unique materials, it may have specific cleaning instructions. It is important therefore to check exactly what the manufacturer recommends. The protective inserts, on the other hand, can be severely damaged by machine washing, and should only be cleaned using a sponge and a gentle, unabrasive cleaner. Any high temperatures or harsh chemicals may degrade the protection, and so should be avoided.
It is important that every part of a vest is dried gently also, and should not be tumble dried. Both the carrier and the protective inserts need to be hung out to dry and stored accordingly. While the materials used are incredibly strong and durable, if they are crushed or bent into strange positions, the protection may be diminished. Therefore, vests should be stored on a hanger or laid flat, with nothing heavy on top of them.
Perhaps the most important part of caring for a vest, however, is ensuring that there is no damage or deformity. This is most important for the protective inserts, but is just as important for the carrier. A damaged or deformed carrier may not fit properly, at best making it uncomfortable, and at worst leaving gaps in protection that could prove fatal. However, if there is any damage or deformity to the protective inserts in a vest, its protection cannot be guaranteed, and it needs to be replaced immediately.
It is important to check body armor regularly, to ensure that it is in the best condition, and can therefore offer you the protection you need. Most manufacturers offer a guarantee with vests, but all vests have a lifespan that should not be exceeded. The protective materials in a vest can usually last no longer than 10 years, after which they cannot protect you properly and should be replaced.
Caring for your vests is important to ensure that you are protected properly. It should not be neglected, just as understanding your protection should not. Ensuring your safety is of the utmost importance, and you should take any and all steps to keeping yourself protected.