Do you know what the one thing that never crossed my mind when I first married my soldier was? The fact that I would have to wash his uniform. I mean, it’s one of those obvious things that every military wife deals with at some point, but I completely overlooked the fact that it was a chore that I would be faced with. Until, of course, the time came when those ACU’s (Army Combat Uniform… aka the green camouflage) lay in a dirty pile on the floor.
At first, I was nervous as to how to approach washing these things. Connor said it was no big deal, but I didn’t want to ruin his uniform! So, after a lot of research, I finally figured out how to wash his ACU’s, and it was much easier than I expected. It’s true, with some helpful tips and general guidelines, washing ACU’s may not be that big deal at all.
1..Remove all badges, patches, pins, insignia, etc.
Obviously, pins and the like cannot go in the wash. As a general rule, just remove everything from the uniform.
I’m pretty good about knowing where all the pins and patches go now, but the first few times I washed his uniform I took pictures of where everything went so that I was sure to put it back in order. When Connor has time, he double checks to make sure everything looks right, but it is really helpful to him when I at least try to put all those pins and patches back where they belong.
2. Turn the uniform inside out before washing it
So, silly me… I did not turn the uniform inside out for the first few washes. I then proceeded to pick off at least a dozen socks from the velcro when it came out of the dryer. It was a bit frustrating to say the least. For this reason alone, you should definitely turn the uniform inside out. Doing so will also protect the color a bit more, and will prolong the life of the velcro since it wouldn’t be hitting the side of the dryer or be attacked by rogue socks.
3. Wash in cold water
This is what the tag on the inside of the uniform says to do, so you should follow the directions. Washing in cold water helps keep the carefully chosen color and feel of the uniform. Just imagine how much a faded or discolored uniform will stick out.
4. Do not use a detergent that contains any of the following: bleach, fabric softeners, or optical brighteners
According to every website out there, this is one of the most important rules!
Apparently something as sturdy as a military uniform is quite delicate in the wash. Bleach and fabric softener, again, ruin the carefully chosen color and form of the uniform. Using the wrong detergent could easily ruin ACUs.
And then there are optical brighteners. Optical what? I know, I had never heard of such a thing either. Basically, they’re just the ingredients in many detergents that keep clothes looking fresh and bright. Optical brighteners may not initially appear to be doing any harm to the uniform… until you look at the uniform with night vision goggles and realize that it’s glowing. Seeing as the purpose of the uniform is to camouflage, glowing could be quite problematic.
So, what does that mean for choosing detergent?
Brands like Tide (and a whole host of others) contain optical brighteners, and should be avoided.
Cheer Liquid, All Powder, and Woolite are good options that do not contain optical brighteners and are determined to be best for military uniforms.
Is your detergent making your soldier’s uniform glow? Check a more comprehensive list of safe detergents here.
5. Tumble dry on a cool setting, and then immediately remove the uniform when the dryer stops and lay flat or hang to ensure wrinkles don’t form. Do not wring out or twist.
6. Oh and most importantly, don’t dry clean, starch, or press the ACU. Just don’t.
See? It isn’t that difficult, right? Keep in mind, that these instructions are specifically for ACU’s (or other branches’ equivalents). PT’s can go in the wash like everything else you own. Formal uniforms? Please please please leave that to the pros.
Do you have any tips or advice for washing ACU’s? Let me know in the comments below!