By National Safe Boating Council
Photos by Meghan Marchetti/DWR
Manufacturer’s recommendations from the Life Jacket Association for cleaning and storing your life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD):
Inflatable life jacket: Hand wash or sponge down in warm, soapy water, taking care not to submerge the inflator. Rinse your PFD with clean water and hang to dry on a plastic coat hanger. Do not dry-clean, use chlorine bleach, or apply direct heat. Always store your fully dried PFD in a warm, dry, well ventilated place out of direct sunlight.
Inherently buoyant life jacket (foam): Clean in the same manner except they may be fully submerged.
If you think your life jacket has been exposed to a virus, clean as recommended by the manufacturer and then let dry in warm, low humidity environment for at least 72 hours before reuse. If you must reuse your product within 72 hours, the following precautionary guidance is suggested.
- Buckles, zippers, other hardware and hook/loop fasteners (e.g. Velcro®) are hard to clean due to crevasses and metal/plastic construction. Using 60 – 90% solutions of alcohol sprayed/wetted on these components is acceptable.
- Avoid spraying inflatables with specific disinfectants that are detrimental to the fabric. e.g. bleach-based products.
- Do not machine launder life jackets.
- Life jackets should be hand-washed with gloved hands – wash as hot as possible (< 60C) to kill virus.
- Ensuring complete drying is critical, heated air drying is encouraged < 60C
- Virus likes moisture and can survive in cold – virus dies by drying out and by heat, which some fibers can enhance.
- If hang to air dry, allow 72 hours (3 days) before reuse.
DISCLAIMER: Remember it is not possible to carry out or guarantee complete disinfection, the goal is to minimize risk.