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When Must a Personal Flotation Device Be Replaced?

Posted by Luke Green

Taking proper care of your personal flotation device (PFD) will ensure that it has the longest possible life with maximum functionality. As a piece of safety equipment that may well save your life one day, it’s critical that you regularly review the state of your PFD and know when to replace it with a new one. Here are some of our top tips to help you

First, there are some simple things you can do to ensure that your PFD lasts as long as possible without having to be replaced. The most important element of PFD maintenance is washing, drying and storing it correctly after use. Once you come home, wipe the device down with a solution of mild soap and warm water, then rinse it with a hose or a bucket of water. This will remove any dirt, chemicals or salt which may damage your PFD over time. Once you have cleaned it, hang the PFD up to dry in a cool, well-ventilated area; do not use a hairdryer, radiator or tumble dryer, and do not leave it in direct sunlight.

Next, you should inspect the state of your PFD regularly to review its integrity. Check that all hooks, pockets, snaps and latches are functioning properly; if they are broken or worn, it may be unsafe to continue using the device. You should also inspect the device’s webbing, which should not have been ripped or become unattached. Assuming you have cleaned it regularly and correctly, there should be no sign of mould or mildew on the PFD. Finally, apply UV protection to the device a few times a year to retain its strength, and test the device’s buoyancy occasionally by jumping into the water while wearing it.

When to Replace Your Personal Flotation Device

If your PFD is damaged, broken or poorly maintained, it may not perform correctly and could be unsafe to use. It is also important that the device is comfortable and fits correctly, otherwise you may not wear it when you should. In these scenarios, it is time to replace it. Do not put off replacing your PFD – this is the most important piece of equipment you will use in paddleboarding, so it should be treated with the urgency it requires.

Testing your PFD is essential to ensuring its continued life. If the device is stored in high temperatures or not cleaned properly, the flotation elements within can compress and break down, reducing their effectiveness greatly. Squeeze the device’s foam to half its size and check that it returns to its original size shortly. If it doesn’t, the quality of the foam is likely compromised or worn out. Make it your business to know your PFD inside and out. When it seems to have lost some of its buoyancy or integrity, make it a priority to replace it. 

Make sure to choose a personal flotation device of high quality; cheaper options may compromise on performance, and can often end up more expensive in the long run anyway, as their fabrics and elements will break down more quickly and need replacing sooner. The Red Original Airbelt Personal Flotation Device is a compact alternative to the traditional PFD, making it the ideal safety solution for use in stand-up paddleboarding and other watersports. Made in collaboration with Baltic Lifejackets Sweden, the airbelt’s minimalistic design makes it comfortable to wear, while still offering plenty of storage space in a large water-resistant pocket at the front of the device.