a man adjusts a girl's life jacket
a man adjusts a girl's life jacket

How to Care for Your Life Jackets

The amount of buoyancy (and life-saving value) your life jacket provides will decrease over time.

Treat your life jacket as if your life depends on it! Here’s how to take good care of it.

Life Jacket Maintenance


  • Check your life jackets at the beginning of each boating season.
  • Check that all hardware and straps are in good shape, are firmly attached, and are in working order.
  • Check for leaks, mildew, lumpy or hardened buoyancy material, & oil saturation in the fabric.
  • Make sure that there are no rips or tears in the fabric.
  • Make sure that the label stating USCG approval is attached, and that it is readable.
  • Discard and replace life jackets that show signs of deterioration - tears, mildew stains, punctures, etc.


  • Don't use a life vest or throwable flotation cushion as a kneeling pad or boat fender.
  • Don't use harsh detergents or gasoline to clean it.
  • Don't remove any labels, straps or buckles.


  • Store in an area with good ventilation.
  • If wet, allow it to dry thoroughly in open air before storing.
  • Drying it in a dryer, in front of a radiator, or other source of direct heat will destroy its buoyancy.

Inflatable Life Jacket Maintenance

Inflatable life jackets require more frequent maintenance than inherently buoyant life jackets.

  • Check the status of the inflator every time to be certain cartridge is properly installed and the equipment is in working order.
  • Check for leaks every two months; inflate life jacket orally and leave it overnight to check for leaks. If it leaks then it should be replaced.
  • Immediately replace any spent CO2 cartridges with new ones. Frequent users of inflatables should check them often, especially if used around sharp equipment like fishing gear.
  • Make sure all straps and zippers are in working order - keep your equipment in serviceable condition.
  • Inflatables are NOT recommended for individuals who cannot swim (unless worn inflated) and are not for use where water impact is expected, like water skiing or riding a jet ski.
  • Inflatable PFDs are not meant for children under the age of 16.
type 5 life jacket illustration
For more details on inspecting and caring for your inflatable life jacket check out our step-by-step instructions and helpful videos