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How to Wash a Safety Vest? – Easy Guide with Pro Tips

how to wash safety vest
Written by Willie F Brodson
Last Update: August 23, 2022

A safety vest can be an essential part of many jobs when you need to be highly visible. It makes you stand out because it’s made of reflective and fluorescent dyed materials. The luminance of the safety vest fades and can become a hazard over time when it gets dirty.

You can’t wash a safety vest as you do with regular clothes. Fading of the colors is a big concern here. Let’s explore the step-by-step process of washing your safety vest the right way:

Proper Ways to Wash a Safety Vest

safety vest

Step 1: Scrape off excess dirt

The first step is to examine your safety vest and see if there are apparent signs of dirt on it. Use a dry, clean cloth and wipe off the loose grime and dirt. This is important because you don’t want the muck to settle in the fabrics of other clothes during the washing cycle.

Step 2: Remove obvious stains

After wiping off excess dirt, it will be time to work on any stains you see on your safety vest. Use a (mild) stain remover that is safe for fluorescent colors. Use a dry cotton cloth to put the remover on stains.

Don’t wipe too hard, or you might fade the brightness and reflective nature of the safety vest.

Step 3: Wash in cold water

Remember to read the cleaning and washing directions on your safety vest’s label. This will determine if you need to hand wash or use the washing machine.

Don’t use a detergent made with alkaline because it will ruin the fluorescent colors. Use a natural detergent instead because they are cold water dissolvable. With a washing machine, use cold water and put on the delicate cycle.

If you are going to wash other clothes with the vest, don’t have rough clothes like jeans in the wash with it. It could damage the reflectivity of the safety vest.

Step 4: Air dry or low heat setting

After the cleaning process, you must dry your safety vest properly. Again, check the directions on your vest’s label before going ahead with anything. If the heat is too high during the drying process, it will damage the reflective part of the vest. When using a dryer, place it at the lowest temperature of heat.

Once it’s finished drying, take it out right away and hang it up with a hanger. Don’t do it outside if you air dry it as the UV rays might damage the vest. Use a hanger and let it dry naturally.

Quick tips & warnings

1. Read the washing instruction label 

For both the washing and drying instructions.

2. Do not use alkaline detergent 

Use a natural or mild detergent to ensure your vest won’t get damaged during the washing process.

3. Do not dry-heat 

High heat will wreck the vest. Air dry or use the lowest heat temperature available.

4. Do not dry under direct sunlight 

The UV rays can destroy the safety vest and render it useless.

5. Do not use any bleach or softener 

These solutions will eradicate the fluorescent colors and reflective tape.

6. Do not dry clean safety vests 

This process is too harsh for cleaning your safety vest.

7. Do not wring out your vest to dry 

It’s all about being delicate with your safety vest. You might be tempted to wring out your vest to eliminate excess water, but it’s not a good idea as this will damage it.

Factors that cause the vest to wear out

Safety vests that show wear and tear will not work correctly. Many factors can affect your safety vest. Some things include hot temperatures, high UV rays, and working strenuous and dirty jobs. You also need to upkeep the maintenance and care of your safety vest if you want it to last. Don’t be afraid to clean it if you follow the basic guidelines.

Can your machine wash a safety vest?

Yes, you can. Just make sure that the directions on the label of the safety vest concur with this method. Always use cold water, a delicate cycle, and mild detergent. No bleach or softener is allowed.


1. How many times can you wash a safety vest?

Ans. Most high-visible garments like safety vests have a maximum of 25 washes in them. Sometimes it takes only 5 washes for the vest to start losing reflectivity.

2. Can reflective materials get wet?

Ans. Yes, but only use cold water to get it washed. High heat will destroy the safety vest.

3. Should you wash a vest?

Ans. Absolutely. You don’t want the vest’s integrity to be lost since it’s dirty and grimy. The point of a safety vest is to be highly visible on your job.

4. What should you look for when buying a safety vest?

Ans. Safety vests should have 1240 square inches (at minimum) of a safety orange or yellow background. They must also have 310 square inches (at minimum) of reflective striping or tape.

About the author

Willie F Brodson

Certified by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and a master of Science in Occupational Safety Management from Indiana State University, Willie F Brodson is an occupational safety expert who believes in the age-old saying – “It is better to be safe than sorry.”

Willie’s areas of expertise include legal guidelines for health and safety, coding and construction safety, fire prevention and theft, and environmental technology. Over a span of four decades, he has provided safety training and consultation and developed safety manuals for a number of state-owned and private organizations.

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