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Appearance matters very much in the United States Army. Soldiers need a clean and sharp uniform when representing our country at home and abroad. How to go about attaining that clean uniform, however, is a bit more complicated than we think. Dry cleaning, which substitutes water and traditional detergents for powerful chemicals, is the method of choice when a normal wash cycle is unacceptable. But can you dry clean military uniforms? Yes and no—read on to learn more.
Upon receiving your Army Combat Uniform, you may think you need to keep this important apparel away from anything like grocery-store laundry detergents. While it’s true that you do need to launder your uniform with some special attention, that attention should be your own, not the dry cleaners’. Uniform manufacturers treat the ACU with permethrin, an insect repellent that keeps mosquitoes, ticks, and other parasites away from soldiers. The chemicals dry cleaning uses would break down that permethrin treatment, rendering the wearer vulnerable to tick-borne illnesses or even malaria. Wash your Army Combat Uniform yourself, but do so with care—let it have a wash cycle to itself, lay off the hot water, and don’t let it shrink in the dryer.
You wouldn’t go down to the basement and toss your suit and tie into the drum of the washing machine alongside your gym clothes and a pair of sweatpants. By the same token, you wouldn’t launder your service uniform with such little care. Service uniforms are the military equivalent of business dress, ideal for situations where the combat uniform would be too informal. Just as you would take your suits to the cleaners, you should do the same for your service uniform. In short, you can dry-clean military uniforms as long as they’re analogous to what you would dry-clean in civilian life. Recently, the Army decided to embrace tradition by designing a new service uniform that evokes the “pinks and greens” that soldiers donned in World War II. The uniform features a similar olive drab jacket paired with slightly rose-hued khaki pants, making for an iconic outfit synonymous with American military excellence. It stands to reason that you would want to look your sharpest in these modern classics.