Care and Cleaning of Life Jackets

Although life jackets are generally easy to care for and can last many seasons with proper attention, there are a few dos and don’ts that will help ensure your PFDs stay in good working condition. Perform these checks bi-annually and at the start of every boating season.


  • Examine your PFD before use to check for rips and fraying, while looking to see if hardware, seams and straps are in suitable condition. Tug at the straps and close and release the buckles to ensure they are also in good shape.
  • Look for signs of mildew, waterlogging (the absorption of water), shrinkage or severe fading. If detected, replace your PFD.
  • Write your name somewhere on the PFD so it is easily identifiable and will not get mistaken for someone else’s.
  • Rinse with fresh water after wearing to remove salt deposits and other impurities.
  • Hang dry before storing in a cool, ventilated spot away from direct sunlight.
  • Protect the safety of others by cutting-up old vests before throwing them out so that should someone find them, the PFDs will be unusable.
  • If you own an inflatable PFD, replace spent air cartridges once they have been used.


  • Don’t wear it with heavy or sharp items in the pockets, which may puncture or challenge the buoyancy so you don’t float as well.
  • Don’t tailor your PFD. By doing so, you void the USCG approval and alter the buoyancy, changing the effectiveness of the flotation. If your PFD doesn’t fit, get one that does. A PFD that is cut or altered may not help save your life.
  • Don’t apply heavy weight to your PFD by kneeling or standing on it or by using it as a boat fender. Pressure like this will crush the foam within, resulting in loss of buoyancy.
  • Don’t leave your PFD onboard a boat not in use for an extended period of time. This exposes it to sunlight and dry conditions that may weaken it.
  • Don’t clean a PFD with harsh detergents or attempt to dry clean.
  • Don’t dry your PFD in the dryer, on a heater or within contact of any other direct heat source as this can damage the foam inside.