How to Wash a Plate Carrier

Walking around with the weight of a plate carrier on your body is bound to make you break out in a smelly sweat that penetrates through your undershirt and to the plate carrier. Eventually, the vest is going to smell and have stains. What do you do? Toss it in the washer and dryer? Not if you want to keep using it for protection. This brief article explains how to clean your plate carrier without damaging it.

If you wear a plate protector as part of your job, your employer may require you to keep it looking neat and clean. Plus, you don’t want your co-workers catching a whiff of body odor when they walk by you. Don’t sweat it; you can clean your vest without damaging it as long as you know how to wash a plate carrier correctly.

Basic No-No’s

Before you learn what you can do to clean your plate carrier, you need to know what not to do.

  • Never ever put the plate carrier in the washing machine.
  • Never use bleach or other household chemicals on the plate carrier.
  • Never use fabric softener on the plate carrier.
  • Never put the plate carrier in the dryer.

Washing and drying your carrier can cause shrinkage that will cause your vest not to fit properly and thus not protect you adequately. Any of these can damage your plate carrier’s material, and when you are counting on your vest and plates to protect your life, you can’t afford to risk it.


Before you can clean your plate carrier, you need to remove everything that is detachable. Plates, pouches, cummerbunds, straps, and any other accessory that you may have added to your plate setup should be removed.

Make sure you removed padded inserts that are easily overlooked. If these are left on, they could absorb water and ultimately grow mold. Note the location of each pad or accessory so that you can put them back on correctly.

Related: Plate Carrier Setup

Washing Your Setup

You will need dish soap and laundry detergent to wash your plate carrier. A small soft brush can be used for stains. Wash the carrier in the bathtub so that you have room without having to squeeze the material into a small sink and possibly cause deformities to the shape of the vest.

  • First, brush away any loose dirt and scrape off any dried mud with a plastic putty knife. Avoid using sharp objects to scrape as you could cut the material.
  • Use a small toothbrush or soft cleaning brush and dish soap to scrub stains. You can use baking soda and vinegar to clean perspiration marks. Rinse off the soap as you clean the spots. Note: Never use a stiff brush to clean your plate carrier. You run the risk of damaging the fibers inside.
  • Fill the bathtub with lukewarm, never hot, water and a small amount of laundry detergent. Liquid laundry soap works best because it is already dissolved, and you won’t have to wait to clean the vest or have powdered detergent sticking to the vest.
  • Place the plate carrier in the water and gently wash the front and back.
  • Drain the water and fill it with cool rinse water. Dip the plate carrier in and out of the water to rinse. Continue to dip and rinse until the soap is all gone. Avoid using a hose or spray to rinse the vest; this forces water deeper into the material and can degrade the fibers.
  • Use a thick towel to soak up excess water on the vest. You can gently squeeze it but do not wring it, or it will stretch out of shape.
  • Lay the plate carrier outside in the sun to air dry but don’t put it in direct sunlight, which can fade the material. Make sure it is completely dry before storing.

After the vest is dry, inspect it for any damage you may have incurred while wearing it or during the cleaning process.

Related: Plate Carrier Accessories


Your plate protector will naturally become stained and have odors over time as it is worn to work or in maneuvers. Knowing how to wash a plate carrier is an essential part of owning protective gear. Improper washing and drying can cause deterioration of the material that leads to inadequate protection.

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