Written by: Greg Ellifritz
A reader recently emailed me a question:
“What have you found that works best to keep cool while keeping dry (sweating), when wearing a vest? I find myself wearing a vest for as long as 12-hours a day.”
It’s a great question. As temperatures broke 80 degrees here last week, I started to notice some of that “body armor funk” smell on my co-workers. I live in Ohio, so I’m certainly not in a tropical rain forest, but I’ve worn concealed body armor every day for 24 years with summer temperatures in the mid-90s with equally high humidity.
I’m a big guy and I sweat a lot. I work afternoon shifts in the heat of the day. After a few of those sweaty shifts, my body armor starts smelling a little ripe. Here’s what I do to stop the stench.
1) Powder up. Cover your torso (front and back) with talcum powder. This helps keep you dry and helps you to avoid heat rash. When you do inevitably start to sweat, the powder will cut the stench a bit.
I’m lazy and don’t like the mess of traditional talcum powder. I use the spray version of Gold Bond “no mess body powder.” It really helps.
2) Choose the right undershirt. Cotton is a horrible choice. It stays damp forever. I use the quick drying polyester blends in the summer and merino wool in the winter. Sleeveless shirts also help you stay cool.
Lots of cops wear Underarmor, but I like a looser cut. I find that the loose sleeveless polyester T-shirts keep me the coolest. Underarmor’s looser “Heat Gear” is fine, but I actually like the Champion sleeveless shirts better. I find that the Underarmor fabric holds on to odors longer than whatever fabric blend Champion uses.
3) Use an odor-killing spray after each sweaty shift. I’ve used Febreeze before, but haven’t been really satisfied with its performance. Now I use an odor killing spray designed to eliminate a hunter’s smell to game animals. There are several of these sprays on the market. I use Elimishield. There’s no perfume covering scent and it instantly kills any odors at all.
This spray is also great to keep in your gear bag or locker at work. If you step in dog shit or get smeared with human feces during the arrest of a nasty prisoner, this stuff will kill the odor until you can shower and change. You can also hose down your uniform as you wear it if your clothes start smelling like that gross crime scene you are working.
I spray down my carrier as soon as I remove it and hang it up to dry using a body armor hanger.
5) Wash your carrier regularly and wipe down the ballistic panels with a disinfectant. I know it’s a pain in the ass, but this step will keep you from smelling foul. I wash my carrier every week. I throw a scoop of OxiClean Odor Blaster into the washing machine with the regular detergent. That seems to help combat the odor as well.
With the panels removed, wipe them down with an antibacterial wipe. Follow your body armor cleaning instructions as some chemicals can harm the ballistic protection of the armor panels. Do not leave the panel in the sun to dry. UV light damages some body armor. If you have any doubt, just wipe them down with antibacterial hand soap and water.
6) Once a month, wash your vest carrier, undershirts, and uniform shirts with a hunting odor killer detergent. Just like the sprays, there are lots of different options that will work. I use the same brand (Elimishield). It is a completely scent-free laundry detergent that removes all odors from clothes.
If I have to deal with a really stinky death scene or smoke-filled house, I’ll immediately wash my entire uniform in the Elimishield detergent. It works well to kill all the odors immediately. The only smell worse than body odor funk is decomposing dead body funk.
Give these tips a try to stay fresh and dry as the temperatures begin to soar.
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