How to Remove Mold From a PFD

August 13, 2011

How to Remove Mold From a Life Jacket/PFD

Get ready to cleanThe best way to remove mold from a life jacket/PFD is to clean it regularly and store it properly so that the mold or mildew never forms. Yet, even the best intentions are sometimes not enough. When mold or mildew strikes, you have to deal with it. Otherwise, your PFD can be damaged enough to be unreliable and require a replacement.

Study these procedures thoroughly before using them!

Fist, you should realize that when we speak of mold or mildew, we are talking about a number of different kinds of molds or fungi. These primitive plant-like organisms are simply homsteading in the very comfortable, wet environment of the covering of your PFD. As the mold/mildew goes about its business, the material that makes up your PFD’s covering is scavanged for food and subjected to chemical wastes products. This will weaken the fabric, slowly compromising its ability to hold your PFD together.


Caution:

  • Cleaning agents designed to remove mold may not be the best choice for a life jacket/vest/PFD.
  • Never use harsh detergents on a life jacket/vest/PFD.
  • Never apply gasoline, paint thinner, or other industrial cleaning agents to a life jacket/vest/PFD as a cleaning solution. These can chemically damage the nylon and/or polyester fabrics used in the PFD’s construction. They can also dissolve the flotation foam used inside of the PFD.
  • Throw away life jackets infested with mold to avoid inhaling mold spores. If the mold has moved beyond the surface material and into the padding or flotation component, replace the jacket.

Required Tools:

  • 1 or 2 Plastic buckets (5 gal.)
  • Plastic hose with spray nozzle
  • Mild detergent such as liquid dish soap
  • Sponge
  • Soft bristle brush (such as a tooth brush)
  • Plastic scraping tool
  • Color-safe laundry bleach or white vinegar or lemon juice and salt
  • N95 Respirator or Surgical face mask (optional — but a good idea where mold is involved!)

Standard Procedure:

  1. Choose an outside area to clean the PFD that is well-ventilated, level and reasonable clean. Use a tarp or plastic sheet if necessary. You may want to wear a surgical face mask to avoid inhaling any mold spores.
  2. Scrape any visible mold from the outside of the jacket/vest/PFD to prevent mold spores spreading in your home. Be careful not to damage the PFD’s fabric covering.
  3. Fill the bucket with warm water, and add about 3-6 teaspoons of detergent.
  4. Use a wet sponge to apply the soapy water directly to any stains or contaminated area. Look for oil or black spots.
  5. Dip the scrub brush into the bucket, and scrub the surface of the PFD. Open any folded tabs, and pull gently on creases to scrub those areas. This is where mold is most likely to grow.
  6. Rinse the jacket off with the garden hose after scrubbing the surface.
  7. Hang the jacket out in the sunshine, and allow it to air-dry. This is different from normal cleaning as the UV energy in the sunlight can kill mold/mildew.

Extreme Procedure:

  1. Choose an outside area to clean the PFD that is well-ventilated, level and reasonable clean. Use a tarp or plastic sheet if necessary. You may want to wear a surgical face mask to avoid inhaling any mold spores.
  2. If the jacket/vest/PFD is wet, hang it in the sun to dry, keeping suspect areas exposed to full sunlight.
  3. Scrape any visible mold from the outside of the jacket/vest/PFD to prevent mold spores spreading in your home. Be careful not to damage the PFD’s fabric covering.
  4. Fill the bucket with cold water. Add only one of the following ingredients to the water:
  • Color safe bleach used for laundry. Use about ½ of the amount suggested for a small load of laundry.
  • A solution of lemon juice and salt.
  • A solution of clear vinegar.
  1. Then, soak the PFD in the bucket for 10-20 minutes. The object here is to kill the mold/mildew without damaging the PFD.
  2. Refiill the bucket with warm water (or use a 2nd bucket), and add about 3-6 teaspoons of detergent.
  3. Rinse the PFD thoroughly with the water hose to remove as much of the liquid from Step 4 as possible
  4. Use a wet sponge to apply the soapy water directly to any stains or contaminated areas on the PFD. Look for any black or discolored spots.
  5. Dip the scrub brush into the bucket, and scrub the surface of the PFD. As before, open any folded tabs, and pull gently on creases to scrub those areas.
  6. Rinse the jacket off with the garden hose after scrubbing the surface.
  7. Hang the jacket out in the sunshine, and allow it to air-dry.

If necessary, you can repeat the procedure using an alternative ingredient for Step 4. However, while the PFD may or may not still have stains, the mold and dangerous spores will be gone. If stains persist, you can try washing/scrubbing again with soap.

If all of your efforts are unsuccessful, it is probably time for a new life jacket or vest.

 


Comments or questions are welcome.

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