How To Clean Infant Life Jackets

Life Jacket Safety

It’s summer time, outdoors activities are booming, and summer is still on schedule despite the pandemic. Whether your area has limited access or the season is in full force, you need to know how to clean infant life jackets. 


How to care for infant life jackets

Here are the basic principles:

  • When in storage, keep life jackets fully dry.
  • When you need to use them, check their condition a few days before the trip.
  • Never put them away without cleaning and drying them first. 

You want your infant life jackets to reach their full life span in serviceable condition, and these basic principles will help you make the most of your investment. You can clean infant life jackets after they have been stored for an extended period of time, as it also gives you an opportunity to check its condition.

boating trip

What supplies and tools do you need for cleaning?

  • A water hose or any other instrument that can direct a steady stream of water
  • A tarp or drop cloth so you can freely set the life jackets down as you clean
  • Mild liquid laundry detergent (not a lot, only about 2 tablespoons)
  • A bucket to mix the detergent in
  • A cleaning rag and soft brush

Steps to clean your infant life jacket

Unfasten all the life jacket buckles and unzip the front or side. Depending on your infant life jacket style, there is usually a zipper to keep it snug to your baby. Before you clean anything, make sure it is fully opened up. 

Lay down a tarp or drop cloth.

Rinse with clean water. In an outside area, use a water hose or similar tool to rinse off the infant life jacket. Pay special attention to the straps and corners of the life jacket. Any grit or dirt there can damage the material or retain water. Focus on obvious dirt, mud, or stains of any kind (especially if your baby was eating during the trip).

Fill a bucket with water and mix in 2 tablespoons of mild detergent. Keep the detergent handy for any especially tough stains. You can use a cloth dipped in the detergent mix to scrub the jacket lightly. The main goal is to wipe off any skin oils or sunblock that got onto the jacket. The secondary goal is to take out any stains or dirt. If the stains and dirt are stubborn (especially if they are caused by food or drink), use the mild detergent directly. A soft brush will help. 


Rinse well. The same way you rinsed the infant life jacket to prepare it for cleaning, pour water through every crevice and over every strap. Watch how the water reacts to the flotation material, if it runs off or seems to get absorbed. 

Drip dry. Find a dry place out of the sun, and allow the life vest to drip dry. Never use a hair dryer or any other source of direct heat to dry any life jacket. It can make the porous surfaces brittle, breaking the air pockets that keep it afloat.

What not to do

Do not use harsh chemicals on the life jacket. Anything stronger than mild detergent and water can react with either the exterior fabric or interior foam. It can be hard to rinse off, requiring more effort and scrubbing, or it can ruin the material or make it prone to breaking.

Do not store without fully drying. Storing a damp infant life jacket will invite mildew and mold. It also pressures the interior foam, which needs to be fully dry to maintain the air pockets. Mildew and mold can be removed, but they also weaken the material. Run your hand in the creases and under the straps to test for dampness.

Do not dry in direct sunlight. It might be faster to dry the life jackets in sunlight, but the heat will make the air pockets brittle and more prone to breaking. 

Hanging rack

Storing your infant life jacket

As we said in an earlier part, correct storage is just as important as clean infant life jackets. What should you remember?

  • Store somewhere dry. There should be no humidity in the storage area, or at least no place prone to dampness. If your life jacket becomes damp while in storage, you won’t be able to maintain it properly for the next use.
  • Store somewhere with an even temperature. Don’t allow the life jacket to stay somewhere where heat and cold change abruptly. The temperature changes will stress the material and make it more prone to breaking.
  • Don’t store under heavy objects. Make sure the infant life jacket is hanging or at least stored where nothing heavy is pressing against it. The air pockets need space to stay fully expanded. If you need to make a reminder sign outside or on its storage space, it’s good to do so. 

Tips and extra precautions

If you really want to take extra care with your gear for health and safety reasons, here are some things you can do.

Handle your infant life jackets with disposable gloves. When you return from your boating trip, place all the gear that needs to be washed in a designated space, using disposable gloves. After throwing away that pair, switch to a new pair for the actual cleaning, and throw those away afterwards.

Have a designated space for drying and storing outside gear. If the designated space has a door directly to the outdoors, so much the better. The gear can be cleaned and dried without ever entering the house. When you need them again, you can pick them up and load them without bringing them through the house either. 

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