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How to Wash Safety Vests? – A Step-by-step Guide

Fact checked by Andrew Carnegie

how to wash safety vests

People, especially those working in places with low-light conditions, have to ensure they can be seen from afar and/or in low-light conditions. This is where a safety vest’s importance comes to play.

A colorful, bright, and highly-reflective safety vest makes you visible to the people around you, keeping you away from accidents.

And just like the other garments and accessories you use for work, safety vests are also bound to get dirty and damaged in the long run. Thus, you would also want to learn how to wash safety vests to make them last and keep you safe longer.

Steps on Washing Safety Vests


Cleaning safety vests, also known as high-visibility or hi-vis vests, may seem too intimidating. However, in order to wash a high vis vest, all you have to do is follow very simple steps.

You will need:

  • Clean cloth
  • Mild detergent
  • Cold water

Step #1: Remove loose dirt.

  • Using a clean cloth, brush off the loose dirt off your reflectorized vest.
  • Do not skip this step. If unremoved and then wetted, this dirt can settle in the vest. It can also be an abrasive that can damage the material when in the washing machine.

Step #2: Wash the vest.


  • Separate your vest from rough fabrics and clothes with zippers, buttons, and other potential abrasives. Bear in mind that friction and scratches can damage the reflective tape’s adhesive and reduce its ability to reflect lights.
  • Use mild detergent on a “delicate” cycle.

Step #3: Let it dry.

  • Just like before washing your clothes, check the vest’s tag to check whether you can dry it in the machine. If you can do so, set the dryer to its lowest heat setting and get the vest out immediately after the dryer is done.
  • If you opt not to use the dryer for this process, avoid wringing the vest. Doing so will just ruin the reflective parts of the vest.
  • Also, keep the vest away from direct sunlight, as UV radiations can compromise the reflective properties of the vest. It’s best to hang the vest in the cool shade, preferably where there’s plenty of wind.

Other Ways of Cleaning Safety Vests


If you decide not to use a washing machine, you may still clean it by handwashing! This is another common method to wash construction clothes, including your high-vis vest.

You will need:

  • Cold water
  • Neutral detergent
  • Mild shampoo
  • Store-bought mild stain remover, such as Carbona Laundry Stain Scrubber
  • Dry, cotton cloth
  • Light, soft-bristled brush

Once you’ve got all the materials needed, just follow these steps on how to wash reflective jacket by hand.

Step #1: Soak the vest.

  • Grab a bucket or a wash basin and fill it with cold water.
  • Add in neutral detergent and create suds. You may also use a mild shampoo (such as Dove) if you do not have a neutral detergent available.
  • Soak the vest in the soap water for about 30 mins.

Step #2: Apply stain removers.


  • Before applying stain removers, make sure to read the instructions and directions for use.
  • Put an ample amount of mild stain remover onto a dry cotton cloth.
  • Rub the product onto the fabric to get stains out of hi-vis vest and let it soak as instructed in the packaging/label.

Step #3: Scrub

  • Using a nonabrasive brush, begin removing stains from the vest. Be careful not to scrub too hard. Otherwise, you will end up damaging the fluorescent tapes and the fabrics.

Step #4: Rinse off the vest


  • Rinse off the soap from the vest using cold, running water.
  • Be mindful not to twist or wring the vest.

Step #5: Let it dry

  • Hang the vest to dry in the shade. As mentioned above, do not dry a reflective jacket under direct sunlight to prevent any damage to the vest, especially to its reflective materials.

Some Notes For Washing Safety Vest


  • One main concern for safety vest cleaning is the garment’s delicateness. This being said, it is important that you only use products that are tough on stains but gentle on the vest’s materials. Here are some products that you may consider for cleaning:
    • OxiClean
    • Fels-Naptha
    • Zout
    • Mr.Clean
    • Carbona Laundry Stain Scrubber
  • Wash reflective clothes only in cold water to prevent damage. Using warm or hot water to clean reflective material impacts its adherence to the vest’s material. Additionally, the fluorescent dye responsible for giving the vest its luminance can bleed out when exposed to hot water.
  • Do not use harsh detergents, bleach, and even fabric softeners in this process, as the chemicals in these cleaning products can break down the fluorescent dye and affect the reflectivity of the vest.
  • Do not wash with contrasting colors.

Tips to Keep Safety Vest Last Longer


Tip #1: Wear a weather-appropriate vest.

Wearing a weather-appropriate vest ensures that you are not damaging the vest and that you remain comfortable as you work, especially during hot days.

Tip #2: Always read special care instructions.

Before tossing your vest in the washing machine or soaking it in water, make sure to check the tags provided by the garment’s manufacturer. This will make sure that you don’t miss precautions and special care instructions in washing your reflective safety vest.

Tip #3: Practice spot cleaning.

To prevent stains from accumulating, it is a good habit to spot and clean any stain that you may find on your vest at the end of each working day.

Tip #4: Have two or more safety vests.

A good “hack” is to have a backup safety vest. By having an extra, you can keep a washing rotation and be confident that you always have a clean vest at the ready.

It is also recommended to set a schedule for when to wash construction clothes, including high-vis vests. This ensures that your garments are cleaned on a regular basis.

Tip #5: Know when to stop washing and when to replace it.

Believe it or not, there is a limit to how many times you can wash your vest before it inevitably begins to deteriorate, and you can find this information on its tag. So when you have already reached its “limit”, it is likely time for you to replace it.

However, if it still passes the safety vest requirements as indicated on your inspection card despite reaching the “limit,” you’re still good to use it.

Here are the other indicators that you should change your vest:

  • Faded color
  • The reflective material does not meet the reflective standard.
  • Visible damages, such as tears and holes
  • Faulty closures


Safety vests are more than just a garment. They are safety equipment complete with bright colors and fluorescence that remind each wearer of how vision and visibility are important in promoting safety for everyone in the workplace.

When left dirty and uncared for, the vests can get damaged and even lose their “high-visibility” features. If this happens, your safety is also compromised!

So don’t let the dirt dim your vest, and learn how to wash safety vests!

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