Cleaning Military Grade Camo & Fatigues

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Cleaning Military Grade Camo & Fatigues

A very dear friend of mine and military veteran is hunting and fishing every year in his original 20-30 year old military issue woodland camo, and it looks fabulous ... as though it was acquired yesterday.  On a visit to North Dakota, I borrowed a pair of his camo pants and jacket on brisk, sometimes testy Spring mornings fishing for walleye on Lake Oahe, and the comfort level was off the charts ... soft, insulating, perfectly comfortable to the point of being barely noticeable, totally wind and water resistant. With a base layer of organic cotton leggings and tee shirt, my body temperature was just right and I was able to focus on catching great fish (and did!).  Needless to say, I was very excited to get my own fitted woodland camo pants and M-65 jacket!

The Commander's washing instructions are straightforward:  COLD WATER.  Believe it.  His 30-year old camo looks amazing. 

Lots o' camo and tactical pants
Serious outdoorsmen, active military personnel and guardsmen, rely on low visibility properties of camouflage for safety, or a successful hunt.  The majority of South Mountain Market's military grade camo pants, shirts and jackets are not cutesy designer knockoffs ... they are the real deal, much of which is designed to military specifications to last many years with care.  Residual soap elements do cling to washed fabrics from detergents containing whiteners and brighteners, that may actually increase visibility in the field (degradation of camouflage) by emitting just enough low level UV light that animals can see.  In military action that degradation can also compromise safety, and must be avoided.  

Depending on how bonded you are with your camo and tactical clothes, specific care instructions can be fairly generic with qualifications.   (If you're bored with it by next year, well okay.)   Whether wearing camo as a fashion statement, or for serious outdoor field utility, consider your camo investment will never function or look the same if improperly laundered.   

So, caring for good military camo, BDU and tactical apparel requires relatively standard laundry practices, using mild (preferably eco-friendly) detergents without whitening and brightening agents, to avoid degradation of original camouflage print.  Don't use fabric softeners.  Genuine military spec camo clothing is coated with permethrin (insect repellent), and chemical softeners in liquid form, or dryer sheets, may render the coating inert, leaving the wearer vulnerable to insect bites.  That could be bad news in the field.  

Here are modified instructions from the manufacturer: 
  • Do not dry clean.  
  • Machine Washing:  In cold water, use the "wash and wear" or equivalent, cycle.  Heavy stains may require pre-soaking or pre-spotting.
  • Hand Washing:  Wash in cold water, using soap or mild detergent.  
  • Detergent:  Eco-friendly detergents without boosters are the safest bet, but definitely avoid detergents with whitening or brightening agents.  Also steer clear of laundry soaps with "bleach alternative" or "color-safe bleach".   Read those labels!   Good news is ... mild detergents generally work nicely with most other laundry items. 

    If in doubt, default to equal measures of baby shampoo ... you can't lose. 
  • Tumble dry at warm setting; remove immediately at end of drying, then shape and hang.
  • To drip dry, remove from washer before last spin cycle, shape and hang, but keep out of direct sunlight.  
  • If a little anti-wrinkle touch-up is needed, iron at a moderate or synthetic heat setting. 

Suggested Detergents:

To sum up, wash in cold water, using eco-friendly or super mild detergent without whiteners, brightening agents, or boosters.  Tumble dry warm without fabric softener, then remove promptly and reshape.  Air dry if you wish, out of direct sunlight, but remove the camo clothes from the washer before the final spin cycle.  If fatigues need a little ironing, don't burn them ... use a low level or synthetic heat setting




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