Keeping tactical clothing and gear properly cleaned and conditioned can drastically extend its lifespan. When you are investing money into high-quality tactical gear, it’s worth the time and effort to protect your investment. You don’t want to risk ruining a good piece of gear with the wrong cleaning agent, so learning how to clean tactical materials is important.

To help you figure out how to clean your tactical gear without damaging it, here are some basic cleaning tips to get started:
• Read your tag - every material needs to be cleaned differently, so always check your care instruction tags to see what is recommended.
• Check your pockets - before washing any tactical gear, check all compartments for any items, and remove them. (You’d hate to lose your best pocketknife to the washing machine, and you want to prevent items like that from damaging other clothes in the wash!)
• Fasten your Velcro – seal any hook and latch pockets or other closures before putting apparel in the wash, as the hooks could snag other clothing.
• Tactical gear like holsters, body armor, gloves, and belts should never be put into a washing machine. Instead, use mild detergent, cold water, and a scrub brush to clean these items and leave them to air dry.

How to Dry Tactical Materials

Once your gear has been washed, give it adequate time to fully dry before putting it into storage. This will prevent the growth of mold or mildew in your gear. Some materials like cotton and certain polyester blends can be machine washed and tumble-dried like everyday clothes. But specialty materials like nylon blends should only be left to air-dry.

How to Wash Waterproof Apparel

Most waterproof tactical apparel is made of nylon and polyester, which means they can be washed in the washing machine with cold water and like colors. If there is a particularly embedded stain on a piece of gear that the washing machine couldn’t remove, use cold water and mild detergent to get it out. Pour the detergent directly onto the stain, and wait a few minutes for it to soak in. Then use cold water and a scrub brush, and gently scrub at the stain until it’s gone. Always leave waterproof items to air dry.

How to Clean Leather Tactical Gear

Leather equipment and apparel such as gloves, belts, or holsters, requires specific cleaning agents. It is best to avoid hot water and drying machines altogether as the warm temperatures can warp and shrink the material. Follow care instructions and use oil or wax to remove any marks and restore the original appearance.

Read Provided Care Instructions for Tactical Cleaning

Specialty tactical gear will typically come with care instructions on proper washing, drying, and maintenance. So be sure to read the included directions or manuals thoroughly and keep them on hand to refer to later. These are provided by the manufacturers, and they are the best resources for information on caring for specific materials to prevent them from being damaged while cleaning.

All traditional tactical apparel will come with sewn in tags or iron on labels inside of the garment. Be sure to take note of details about machine or hand washing, water temperature, drying methods, and whether or not the material can be ironed. When in doubt, use cold water and a mild detergent. These cleaning agents have the lowest chance of damaging your gear.
Read on for more information on how to clean specific tactical materials.

At the end of the day, “if you take care of your gear, it will take care of you.” So, invest some time and energy into taking good care of your tactical materials with proper washing, drying, and maintenance. Follow the care instructions based on material type and manufacturer guidelines and your gear will last a long time, while looking as good as the day you got it!

Jesse Curtis