Cleaning Hi-Vis Jackets: Maintenance and Stain Removal Tips
Hi-vis jackets, reflective vests and other tactical outerwear can save your life in a tough situation – but they’re far less effective if you don’t clean them properly. Dirt, dust and grime can grind away a hi-vis jacket’s fluorescent color and damage the microscopic glass beads on retroreflective tape, making the garment useless when you need it most.
Keep your hi-vis jackets in great shape, even after extensive use, with these quick tips from 5.11 Tactical®.
How to Clean High-Visibility Jackets
To keep reflective outerwear in the best shape possible in between uses, follow these steps:
- Before you wash a high-visibility jacket, remove loose dirt and debris with a clean, dry cloth. During a normal wash cycle, excess dirt can act as an abrasive.
- Read the wash and care instructions on the jacket or shirt's tag, which will explain special precautions you need to take to clean your garment.
- Machine-wash your hi-vis apparel with like colors in cold water only.
- Use the “delicates” cycle on your washing machine with a mild detergent.
- Don’t wash jeans, work clothes or other rough fabrics (including those with hook-and-pile fasteners) when washing reflective or neon clothing. Rough fabrics and fasteners can pull away the reflective heat transfer film that makes you more visible in low-light conditions.
How to Remove Stains From Hi-Vis Clothes
Working in environments that require high-visibility jackets and other apparel can get pretty messy, so it's no surprise that your high-visibility jackets are susceptible to stains. Here are some tips for removing stains from reflective fabrics:
- Gently wipe stubborn areas using a clean, dry cloth and a mild stain remover.
- Only use stain removers that are marked safe for bright colors and don't contain bleach.
- Never scrub the color-enhanced fabrics on hi-vis clothing because you could create a splotchy or worn appearance that reduces reflectivity and could ultimately put you at greater risk of not being seen.
How to Dry Hi-Vis Apparel
If possible, line-dry your hi-vis clothing without exposing it to direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can fade the garment’s bright colors. If you can't line dry, here are some tips for machine drying your hi-vis clothing:
- Check your garment's tag to make sure it's safe to machine dry it.
- Use your dryer’s lowest heat setting – no heat is preferable – to avoid damaging the heat transfer film or the adhesive that holds the reflective stripes in place.
- As soon as the cycle is complete, remove your jacket to ensure the reflective tape doesn't permanently crease.
- Once dry, put your hi-vis jacket on a hanger until you're ready to wear it again to keep it in pristine condition.
Quick Tips for Cleaning, Drying and Caring for Hi-Vis Jackets
Here's a recap of the most important tips to safely and effectively clean and care for your hi-vis jackets and clothing:
- Remove excess dirt before washing.
- Address stains immediately according to the instructions on the garment’s tag.
- Hand-wash or machine-wash on your washer’s “delicates” cycle with a mild detergent.
- Don’t use fabric softener or bleach.
- Use only gentle stain removers that don't include bleach (and only when necessary).
- Line-dry hi-vis jackets or use the “no heat” setting on your dryer.
- Remove hi-vis clothing from the dryer as soon as the cycle is complete.
- Hang up hi-vis jackets when not in use to keep the reflective tape in good condition.