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How to Wash Hi-Vis Jacket, Vests & Bib Overalls?

Fact checked by Andrew Carnegie

how to wash hi vis jacket

Whether you’re working in a construction site during the daytime or on a busy road during nighttime, you need to ensure that your high-visibility garment has a clean reflective material and fluorescent fabric. Once it is covered in dirt, oil, and grime, it will lose its luminance.

Check out the step-by-step instructions below on how to wash hi-vis jacket, vests, and bib overalls.

Step-by-step to Wash Hi Vis Jacket

Step 1: Read the care tag


Instead of following a generalized instruction to wash reflective clothes, read the care tag on your hi-vis garment.

For instance, waterproof Carhartt jacket washing instructions are different from hi-vis clothing with a fire-retardant coating.

Besides washing techniques, some care tags also include information about the number of machine cycles the garments can take before you can discard them. In most cases, high-vis clothing can go through twenty to twenty-five wash cycles.

Step 2: Spot-clean the hi-vis garment


For non-oily stains:

Prepare the following:

  • A clean sponge or cloth
  • Mild detergent (or neutral detergent) or bleach-free stain-remover

What to do:

1. Wet your sponge or cloth with mild detergent. Squeeze it a few times until the sponge/cloth becomes foamy.

2. Dab the affected area gently. Avoid scrubbing the stain as it can diminish the intensity of the fluorescent color or spread the stain.

To remove stains from neon clothing that is oily and greasy:

Gather the following items:

  • Lest Oil multi-purpose cleaner
  • Dropper
  • Soapy water solution: mix 5 tablespoons of soap powder with 20 liters of water

What to do:

1. Use a dropper and pump out a couple of drops of Lest Oil onto the stain and leave it for up to 20 minutes to get oil out of high vis.

2. Remove the Lest Oil residue and stains using soapy water. Let it air-dry.

Step 3: Use the washer once or twice a week


Pre-treatment or pre-soaking is not recommended for most hi-vis garments. Instead, you need to wipe off the superficial dirt with a clean cloth after spot-cleaning.

If your employer does not have a go-to professional cleaning service, you can wash safety vest and other hi-vis garments at home using these methods:

  • Washing machine

Do not wash construction clothes with your hi-vis workwear in the machine. Be sure to separate them before you start.

Turn the safety jacket or vest inside out before throwing it into the washer.

Unless the care tag states otherwise, use cold water and mild detergent and set your machine to a delicate or “gentle” cycle.

  • Hand-washing

In general, hand-washing is better than machine-washing because you can focus on the areas that actually need cleaning. Plus, you have better control over how much force you exert on the fabrics.

Submerge the clothing in cold water and mild detergent for half an hour to allow the product to work through the fabrics.

Next, use a soft brush to get rid of the stains.

Then, remove the soapy residue with cold water.

Dry the Hi-Vis Jacket


You can dry a reflective jacket in two ways:

  • Air-dry in a well-ventilated place and away from the sun, as UV lights can reduce the luminance of the 3M reflective material.
  • Another method is to use a dryer and choose the “tumble dry no heat” setting. This means your dryer will only use air to dry the hi-vis clothing without the heat.

Either way, be sure to hang the garment after washing and drying to prevent creasing and damaging the glass beads on the retro-reflective striping.

Other Tips to Wash Hi Vis Jacket


1. Make it a point to clean stains ASAP

Generally, hi-vis garment manufacturers recommend spot-cleaning the dirt on the fabric immediately after it gets stained.

Granted, workers do not always get the chance to stop what they are doing just to wash reflective jacket. In this case, check the garment for stains when you get home and spot-clean them immediately.

2. Avoid wringing your safety vests


After you clean hi vis clothing, do not twist and squeeze the water out of it—this can easily break the thousands of tiny granules of glass in the retro-reflective striping.

3. Never iron your hi-vis garments

UV rays are not the only source of heat that can compromise the quality of hi-vis clothing. Even the heat from an iron can destroy the highly-sensitive reflective tapes.

We recommend removing the creases by running a steamer over the fabric using the lowest heat setting available.

4. Do not use the same safety vest every day


Heavy usage can make any piece of clothing wear down quickly. By alternating two to three hi-vis garments, you can increase their lifespan.

Things to Consider Before Washing Hi Vis Jacket

1. Choose your cleaning products wisely


Right now, specialized hi-vis stain remover or hi-vis detergent has not been invented yet, but you can stick to mild or neutral detergents. In other words, you need to avoid anything too abrasive.

Using bleach, alkaline-based cleaners, or brightening products to wash yellow safety vest, or any hi-vis color for that matter, can harm the fluorescent and retro-reflective materials.

When in doubt, go for a mild shampoo.

2. Sort your laundry

Even if you have to clean Carhartt jacket made of denim and a hi-vis jacket from the same brand, chances are these two pieces of clothing are made of different materials.

For one, each one of them would require a different water temperature. For another, denim is a rough material that can damage delicate retro-reflective tape.

By sorting your laundry, you can separate your hi-vis garments and wash them on their own. If you want to save on water, group them with clothes with identical fabrics.

3. Inspect for stains before tossing it in the washer


After separating your hi-vis clothes from the rest of your laundry, place them on a hanger and scan for dirt and grime.

Remember, oil stains cannot be washed away by mild soap. If you find one, address this first before placing the hi-vis garments into the washer.

Frequently Asked Questions


How many times and how frequently can you wash a hi-vis jacket?

Most high-visibility jackets can be washed 20 to 25 times before a replacement is necessary. As for frequency, how often you can wash a safety vest or neon work jacket in the washer depends on how regularly you wear it.

To be clear, there is no prescribed schedule for washing. A good rule of thumb is when the fluorescent and retro-reflective materials start to dull due to the accumulation of dirt.

Assuming that you expose it to smoke, oil, and all sorts of dirt daily, then you will need to launder it once or twice a week. Otherwise, you can wash it every two weeks.

Does washing a waterproof jacket ruin it?

Yes. Fluorescent work jackets and other hi-vis clothing can discolor after 20 to 25 washes, even if you avoid harsh cleaners. Hence, manufacturers recommend replacing them regularly.

Can I wash life jackets in the washing machine using the procedure above?

No, life jackets are different from hi-vis jackets. Though these two garments are similar in color, life jackets are made of materials that cannot be machine-washed.


The main takeaway from this “how to wash hi-vis jacket” guide is that this type of PPE is very delicate. Cleaning them often can easily fade fluorescent materials and damage the reflective strips.

Thus, it is crucial to check for stains and clean your hi-vis garments after every shift so you don’t have to use the washer frequently. But if you must deep-clean, always choose the mildest soap, cool water, and the gentlest cycle on your washer.

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