The Complete Guide to Cleaning Safety Vests: Everything to Know

Mud, grease, paint, and petroleum products are just some of the things you’re definitely going to get on your safety vest!

With about 17 million blue-collar jobs in the United States alone, that’s a lot of washing to do.

The problem is that most of us don’t know safety vest maintenance. If you’re among us and tired of stained, cracked safety vests losing their shine, then read on!

Most Common Stains on Safety Vests

Depending on the type of work done, the stains on safety vests will differ.

However, one thing stays the same: a stain is a struggle to get out of the highly processed, luminescent material used to make our beloved safety vests.

Some of the most common stains on safety vests include:


While mud may be fun for kids and dogs, it’s no fun for us who must try to work in it. Suppose you’re a machine operator, forestry worker, or similar. In that case, you will undoubtedly get mud on you at some point in your career.


It’s almost definite that you will get grease on your safety vests at some point in your automotive, machining, mining, or drilling career, and lots of it! The sticky, gooey, grimy substance sticks to the safety vest fabric like glue.


This is a real pain(t) because paint soaks in and then dries, staining the tiniest fibers in your safety vest.

Petroleum products

Petroleum products like petrol, diesel, and paraffin are all really annoying to get on your clothes; they smell bad, soak through to the skin, and can be extremely dangerous.

Cleaning Safety Vests Properly

Vest Cleaning Products

Despite what you may think, no unique products are needed for cleaning your safety vest. In almost all cases, your care instructions will tell you not to use bleach or softener because those products can damage your vest’s reflective parts and waterproofing.

A mild, non-alkaline laundry detergent with a PH level of 7 or less is more than sufficient to clean even tough stains from a safety vest. You could consider laundry detergent for delicate fabrics.

Safety Vest Washing Technique

Here’s where we get down to brass tacks; the most essential part of successfully cleaning safety vests is to use proper vest washing technique.

First, you need to remove solid dirt from the safety vest. Solid particles like mud can act as an abrasive and further damage the fabric. Gently rub off any external dirt from the safety vest using a dry cloth.

To remove tough stains, you can create a paste of mild laundry detergent powder and water and apply it to the stain or pour a light layer of your mild liquid laundry detergent directly onto the stained areas. Let it soak in for 10-15 minutes.

For less intense stains, add the manufacturer-recommended amount of detergent to cold water and let the safety vest soak for 20-30 minutes before gently scrubbing at the stains with a soft brush.

Finally, rinse the vest in cold water to ensure all the soap is removed. It should be looking good as new!

To dry, shape the safety vest while wet and let it dry in the shade. Do not expose the vest to direct sunlight as this will destroy the reflective capabilities of the material,

Also, do not wring the vest out as this will cause physical damage to the material and reduce its reflective capabilities.

A Clean Slate

Now that you know the ins and outs of cleaning safety vests properly, you can give it a shot yourself.

If you’ve already ruined a ton of safety vests, never mind, it won’t happen again, and you can get yourself some beautiful new custom printed safety apparel for you or your employees.

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