How DO You Wash a Bullet-Proof Vest?

So, Elie was home last week and at some point, he asked me if I could wash his bullet-proof vest which, after months of wearing it, smelled rather bad. Now, after giving birth to five children and dealing with most normal kid-related things (colic and diaper rash and chicken pox, kids sticking their tongues out and calling my kids bad names, late homework and no homework and temper tantrums; sun burns and boredom) and so much more. I have to say I have finally reached the point where almost nothing is surprising and I even handled washing a bullet in my washing machine with humor and relative ease.

But this one got to me. Here’s this smelly thing, sitting in my living room all week reminding me that I had promised to ‘wash it” for Elie. So, I turned to my cyber friends and asked in humor – help! how do you wash a bullet-proof vest? Two pointed out that in the American army, they collect the smelly and issue a new one. Another asked, why not follow the instructions on the label? Nice thought, that. except that Elie had written his name across the label and even if he hadn’t, the label was so faded, I could barely read half the Hebrew words.

They sent me links with all sorts of suggestions and cautions and in the end, I did what one recommended – soapy water and a brush – not soaking it, not submerging it. I towel-dried it – the towel came away black. I washed it again and towel-dried it. This time, the towel came away brown – ah, progress. A third time and the worst of the smell was gone. The green coloring hadn’t improved much, but it did seem to be less dusty looking.

Best I could do and another mountain conquered or at least experienced. So, in case you were wondering how to clean a bullet-proof vest, the answer is: soapy water and a towel, and one more thing – love.

That’s right – love. It’s another small thing I can do for Elie and I do it with such joy. Silly really but these are the only kinds of things that I can do. I don’t know if Elie senses the reasons behind these actions, but I know that he appreciates it. It’s an unspoken thing, as so many things are with young men Elie’s age. But I’m hoping someday he’ll put this all into words for himself, put the pieces together and realize the emotions behind the actions.

For now, I take each job for myself and take simple pleasure in each. This time, while cleaning the bullet-proof vest, the vest and I came to an agreement. I’d clean it; it would protect Elie and watch over him. I definitely got the bargain end of that one!

4 Comments on How DO You Wash a Bullet-Proof Vest?

  1. I wonder if one of those power washers like people use to clean their decks and lawn furniture would work.

    Gee, from 6000 miles away, I’ll never have to do this. Good.

  2. My kids and I have brought many things home from the army for washing, but never a flak jacket!

  3. As a British soldier who had the same problem I used a solution of Bicarbonate of soda works a treat.
    The flak jacket should have an other cotton cover. wWich can be removed for washing

  4. Hey there,

    about time to tell you how much I enjoy that blog. Thanks soooo much for sharing your experience.

    Talking of which: How heavy is such a thing, if you allow the curiosity.



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