How to Care for Tactical Pants

Tactical clothing is supposed to take excess wear and tear and has materials and features providing superior resistance to the elements. Caring for your tactical clothing – pants included – shouldn’t be very complicated nor require special cleaning products.

However, it would help if you didn’t neglect to care properly for your tactical pants, since that will expand their life span. As long as you take good care of your tactical pants, they should last you for many years ahead.

First things first – read the labels

No matter which brand your tactical pants are, you should always begin by carefully reading the instructions that accompany your garment. Some pants feature care instructions on tags, whereas others will come with care documentation. Should you ever doubt how to clean your pants, it’s best to get in touch with the manufacturer or the company you bought the pants from. Some care instructions work as general guidelines appropriate for most tactical pants, but you shouldn’t skip on reading the labels of your pants.

Read also: Wrangler Riggs Workwear Men’s Ranger Tactical Pant Review

Washing the tactical pants – general rules

Tactical pants from reputed brands will come with labels displaying the ideal washing practices. The majority of tactical pants are conceived for wash-and-wear, so you won’t have to struggle a lot to keep them in the best shape.

Take the next steps for caring, while considering the particularities of your tactical pants too:

Get rid of the dirt

The first step to take when washing your tactical pants is to brush away the pants’ ground-in dirt. Shake the pants to get rid of as much land as you can.

Wash the pants

Most tactical pants are made with cotton and polyester, so cold or warm water is recommended for washing. Never use hot water on your tactical pants as you may cause shrinkage and fade the colors. Also, using hot water will make the pants bleed, ruining other clothing in the washing machine.

Keep in mind that some tactical pants come with treatment for superior resistance to water and elements (Teflon coating), and washing them too frequently will decrease the treatment’s efficiency. Using hot water will ruin the coating in the long run.

Always use a gentle cycle on your tactical pants; use the heavy-duty wash only if the pants are filthy.


When your tactical pants are heavily soiled, you should pre-soak them for the best cleaning results. If you’re afraid that the pants will stain, you should spot-treat the pants. Use a gentle washing cycle after you’ve finished with the spot-treatment.

Use mild detergent

Most tactical pants require only a mild detergent or a regular laundry soap for cleaning. Avoid the powerful detergents with bleach because bleach corrodes the tough fibers of your tactical pants.

What if your tactical pants come with particular features?

Some tactical pants come with specific hardware and fasteners, which can be damaged or wear down if you’re not cautious when cleaning/washing the pants. If your tactical pants come with hook-and-pile fasteners or Velcro, you should apply the following tips:

Secure the features

It would help if you always began with securing every hook-and-pile fastener together before washing your pants. Even if you clean the pants by hand, you should protect the special features.

Turn the pants inside out.

It’s important not to allow the fasteners to stick to other clothing. Turn your tactical pants inside out before washing to reduce that risk, but also for helping them not to wear down too soon.

Don’t use a softener

Even if you like the soft-touch feel that softener gives your tactical pants, you should never use it. The softener will only coat the hook-and-pile fasteners and reduce their ability to hold together.

What about fire-resistant pants?

Some tactical pants are fire resistant, and it’s no brainer that special care is required with these pants. Never dry-clean the fire-resistant pants as the solvents from the process will ruin the pants and destroy the protective coating. Some tips are fundamental when caring for your fire-resistant pants:

  • Stay away from fabric softener as it’s typically oil-based, and it will aggravate flammability.
  • Don’t ever use bleach because it destroys the flame-resistant coating and discolors the material as well.
  • Avoid the automatic dryer if the pants come with reflective trim, as the dryer may decrease the efficiency of the reflective tape.

Caring for ACU, BDU, and ABU uniform

Tactical pants come in several types, and properly carrying your uniform will expand its durability.

ACU (Army Combat Uniform)

The ACU pants make the most common kind of tactical pants amongst people in the military.

Never starch or iron the ACU pants because you will ruin the fabric and the camo pattern.

Using iron or starch will fade the color in some areas, so your uniform pants won’t fit the standards military anymore. The colors will get brighter, and your pants will be too bright, affecting the night vision camouflage or safety in stealth missions.

Remove insignia

You have to remove all insignia with Velcro on your tactical pants to curl at the edge, losing the professional look.

Use cold water

As stated before, always wash with cold water and some mild detergent without any ammonia, bleach, or optical brighteners.

Tumble dry

When done with washing, tumble dry your pants on low heat. After taking the pants out of the dryer, let them dry completely on a rust-proof hanger or flat surface.

Never wring or twist the tactical pants, as you will create creases and wrinkles.

BDU (Battle Dress Uniform)

These pants are used in combat by military personnel of all branches and law enforcement too.

The BDU tactical pants are effortless to take care of, and you only need warm water and some mild detergent for washing. Place them on a low heat setting and tumble dry only.

Don’t forget to hang the pants once the washing and drying end. It’s possible to starch the pants, but you don’t have to do it. The BDU tactical pants are stiff and don’t develop wrinkles.

ABU (Airman Battle Uniform)

Only Airmen wear the ABU pants that also provide effortless maintenance. Also, you don’t need to starch the pants to preserve the crisp and wrinkle-free look.

You can use optical brightening detergents with the ABU pants without worrying about damaging the pattern. It’s also possible to use a less mild detergent, but you should still stay away from bleach as it will fade the colors.

Go over the washing instructions for ACU pants for proper carrying for the ABU tactical pants.

What’s the recommended technique to dry tactical pants?

Tumbled dry on the low-heat setting is the best way to dry the tactical pants without stressing about losing the properties of your tactical pants. Make sure to place the pants in the dryer only giving the manufacturer’s instructions a good read. Here are more tips on drying:

  • Don’t use high-heat cycles to maintain the pants colorfast.
  • Take the pants out of the dryer once they have dried. Avoid wrinkles setting into the fabric by folding or hanging the pants.

Hang-drying the tactical pants

If you want the best results for your drying, you should pay attention to the next tips:

  • Use a second spin cycle in the washing machine. It will remove any excess water from your pants.
  • Shake your pants and re-shape them before hanging the pants for drying
  • Don’t fold the pants over the clothesline, as you will have bad looking creases in your pants.

In Closing

There’s a high risk for drip drying to make the tactical pants stiffer than tumble-drying. However, the best tactical pants will keep their shape and properties for many years, requiring little maintenance altogether.