Care and Maintenance of PFDs

Just following up with our Best Kayak Fishing PFDs Guide with a little bit about care and maintenance of the life vests.  This is a short, burst of information to get you headed in the right direction of taking care of your PFDs and ensuring that they last their longest possible life span.

I’m military, so I tend to relate everything to things in my 22 year career.  All the equipment the Army uses goes through the same type of maintenance, sustainment, and recovery maintenance and care that your kayaks and its accessories should as well.

PFD Maintenance & Care

  • Before Use (Prep, Care, Do’s and Don’ts)
  • Don’t try to jury rig a PFD so that it fits better. If you have to do that then the one you have doesn’t fit and your safety is already compromised.
  • Inspect for serviceability.  There should be no tears, holes, or ripped fabric. The straps and buckles should also be secure.  Give them a good yank to ensure still secured.
  • Check for mildew odor, water logged material, or shrinkage in the materials.  If so, then you may encounter bouyancy loss which is a bad thing.
  • If the material is faded or worn then it may be an indication of strength loss.
  • Identify which PFD belongs to who.  Write names on PFDs or get different colors / style for everyone.
  • Always test in shallow water or pools prior to using “in the real” for the first time.

During PFD Use (On the Water):

  • The PFD should be on you.  It shouldn’t be used as a makeshift pillow, boat bumper or seat cushion.  It could lose buoyancy and, like we said, it should be on you.
  • Heavy items in PFD pockets can warp or tear the fabric.  Don’t do it.
  • Same goes with sharp objects that could tear fabric or puncture and inflatable PFD.
  • Sunshine will eat away at fabric.  Don’t leave in direct sun for too long.

After Using Your PFD

  • Rinse with cool, clean, fresh water. This is especially important if you’ve been in salt water.
  • Drip Dry.  Never machine was or dry!
  • Don’t scrub with harsh detergents.
  • Keep your PFDs in a cool, shaded area when not in use.  UV rays can, and will, damage fabric and fastenings.
  • Make sure the storage area is cool, dry, and has good ventilation.
  • There is no precise time frame for wear out dates or expiration dates on PFDs. However, older foam PFDs may lose buoyancy so be sure to go through the “before use” measures above and test in shallow water first.
  • Per the United States Coast Guard PFD page, old PFDs should be cut up and disposed of immediately so that no one inadvertently uses an old, worn out, or non-serviceable PFD.


This is quick and easy information are techniques that will not only help you take care of your PFD and ensure that it lasts but also keep you safe and possible save a life. For more information, our reference for a lot of this information was –

Check out our Comprehensive Kayak PFD Buying Guide for Adults, Kids, and Dogs!

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