The ACU Care Policy Email This Story Print This Story

The ACU Care Policy

The following instructions must be followed when caring for the ACU in order to maximize the service life and maintain optimum performance:

  • Soldiers will not starch the Army Combat Uniform under any circumstances. The use of starch, sizing, and any process that involves dry-cleaning or a steam press will adversely affect the treatments and durability of the uniform and is not authorized.

  • Wash in cold water and mild detergent containing no optical brighteners or bleach.

  • Tumble dry at low heat (not to exceed 130 degrees farenheit). Remove immediately from the dryer and fold flat or place on a rustproof hanger to ensure heat from the dryer does not set wrinkles.

  • To drip dry, remove from the washer/water and place on a rustproof hanger. Do not wring or twist.



Laundering The Army Combat Uniform (ACU)
While the ACU comes with a care manual, some items on the laundering instructions are not covered in the manual. On the care label, the instructions are to launder in a mild detergent which does NOT contain "optical brighteners". No laundry detergent lists whether or not it contains these brighteners. By contacting the individual laundry detergent manufacturers the following list was compiled of detergents which do contain optical brighteners and those which do not:

Contains Optical Brighteners:

  • Dreft Liquid
  • Dreft Powder
  • Era Liquid (all versions)
  • Gain Liquids (all versions
  • Gain Powders (all versions)
  • Ivory Snow Liquid
  • Ivory Snow Powder
  • Tide Liquids (all versions)
  • Tide Powders (all versions)
  • Tide Tablets (all versions)
  • Fab (all versions)
  • Dynamo (all versions)
  • Ajax (all versions)
  • Suavitel Fabric Softener (all versions)
  • All laundry products made by Colgate-Palmolive
  • Arm & Hammer Liquid (all versions)
  • Arm & Hammer FabriCare Powder (all versions)
  • Arm & Hammer Fresh 'n Soft Fabric Softener (all versions)
  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
  • Rain Drops Water Softener and Detergent Booster
  • DeliCare Fine Fabric Wash (all versions)
  • Wisk (all versions)
  • All Liquid (all versions)
  • Surf Liquid (all versions)
  • Yes (all versions)
  • All Dial Laundry Products including:
  • Purex Powder (all versions)
  • Purex Liquid (all versions)
  • Purex Fabric Softener (all versions)
  • Purex Baby (all versions)
  • 20 Mule Team Detergent (all versions)
  • Zout (all versions)

Does Not Contain Optical Brighteners:

  • Bold Powder
  • Cheer Liquid (all versions)
  • Cheer Powder (all versions)
  • All Powder (all versions)
  • Surf Powder (all versions)
  • Woolite (all versions)

Questionable Contents (Should probably Avoid):

  • Spray 'n Wash (all versions)
  • Calgon (all versions)

CAUTION:

If using a store brand or "generic", the label usually states "compare to [brand]" on the front panel. Match that to the list above for ingredient content.

Additionally, turning the uniforms inside out while laundering prevents the Velcro from attaching to other items and prolongs the usefulness of the Velcro.

Click Here to View a Power Point Show: Army Combat Uniform (ACU) Briefing

Article Opinions

ken wrote:

Woolite(all versions) are on both list
Posted on 01/18/07 13:31:03

Lawrence wrote:

Actually, all of these on the "does NOT contain" are on both lists:

Bold Powder
Cheer Liquid (all versions)
Cheer Powder (all versions)
All Powder (all versions)
Surf Powder (all versions)
Woolite (all versions)

IT APPEARS THAT THE BOTTOM OF THE "DOES CONTAIN" LIST IS REALLY THE "DOES NOT CONTAIN" LIST.
Posted on 01/20/07 12:46:11

Eric wrote:

your posting of woolite on both lists detracts from the credibility of your list.
But thanks for the effort.
Posted on 01/21/07 13:08:57

rpcrmcbride@hotmail.com wrote:

Why go with a uniform that is so delicate that it can not be washed with most detergents, I got a chuckle out of the fact that a baby detergent made the do not use list. I have been a soldier for 20 years and the ACU is a dud, bottom line. Here is the do not use list again.
Dreft Liquid
Dreft Powder
Era Liquid (all versions)
Gain Liquids (all versions
Gain Powders (all versions)
Ivory Snow Liquid
Ivory Snow Powder
Tide Liquids (all versions)
Tide Powders (all versions)
Tide Tablets (all versions)
Fab (all versions)
Dynamo (all versions)
Ajax (all versions)
Suavitel Fabric Softener (all versions)
All laundry products made by Colgate-Palmolive
Arm & Hammer Liquid (all versions)
Arm & Hammer FabriCare Powder (all versions)
Arm & Hammer Fresh 'n Soft Fabric Softener (all versions)
Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
Rain Drops Water Softener and Detergent Booster
DeliCare Fine Fabric Wash (all versions)
Wisk (all versions)
All Liquid (all versions)
Surf Liquid (all versions)
Yes (all versions)
All Dial Laundry Products including:
Purex Powder (all versions)
Purex Liquid (all versions)
Purex Fabric Softener (all versions)
Purex Baby (all versions)
20 Mule Team Detergent (all versions)
Zout (all versions)
Posted on 04/06/07 20:37:19

Stryker wrote:

I have been in search of an ACU uniform that fits my very small pocket book. Any advice would be great. I found a pair of Condor Sierra Combat Boots for $16.99 at my local Fleet Farm. They had it priced wrong. Some kid working there put the wrong price tag on the shelf. They were supposed to be $56.99. Lucky me.
Posted on 05/24/07 10:25:30

Stryker wrote:

Eric the mentioningof woolite being on both lists when they are not detracts from the credibility of your comment.
Posted on 05/24/07 10:30:44

Stryker wrote:

Sorry for the typo.
Posted on 05/24/07 10:33:12

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Posted on 09/16/07 21:07:29

Air Force guy with same ABU issues wrote:

You guys are funny. Thanks for the laughs in your comments.
Posted on 11/15/07 07:04:31

Another Air force guy with ABU issues wrote:

It's not that the ACU is delicate. It is that optical brighteners make you stick out in IR vision. So if you want to be the guy with shoot me all over you when the ememy is looking through IR go ahead and use any detergent. I get a chuckle out of the fact that you didnt know that.
Posted on 11/29/07 20:41:37

No ABU issues wrote:

The optical brighteners DO NOT make you stick out more in IR! This is a myth. They DO make you stick out more in Ultraviolet Light. So if you're worried about standing out, don't go to any nightclubs with black lights...
Posted on 12/06/07 11:46:36

Just got my wife an HE washer wrote:

Has anyone found a list specifically listing HE detergents?
Posted on 01/19/08 14:05:26

Dan Gutting wrote:

Sport-Wash detergent , the only brand you can always be certain has no optical brighteners (or anything that acts as an optical brightener) , is reccommended for all HE machines. Here is a link to an artical that proves that the "safe detergents" list is all wrong.
Posted on 02/19/08 11:55:40

Braxton Davis wrote:

Wash your ACU's in a mixture of piss and baby blood. Tumble dry on low heat.
Posted on 02/20/08 22:16:51

ARMY GUARD GUY wrote:

lol...what makes the grass grow green privates....exactly what you should be washing your ACU's with, lol
Posted on 04/27/08 20:05:15

Tommie wrote:

Posted on 08/08/08 00:28:34

Don wrote:

Here's an interesting article from the AF Portal that says we can use ANY detergent...apparently "optical brighteners" have little or no effect?

"Airmen Can Use Regular Detergent on ABUs
Sun, Jul 20, 2008

5/21/2008 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Airmen are now authorized to wash their Airmen Battle Uniforms in regular detergent, regardless if the detergent uses optical brighteners announced Air Force leaders here recently.

On March 25, the Army released a memorandum concluding that ABUs laundered with detergents containing optical brighteners do not pose a detection threat to the wearer in an operational environment. "After reviewing Army test results and conducting follow-on evaluations we have determined that changes from laundering ABUs in detergents containing optical brighteners are negligible," said Lt. Col. Chuck Arnold, chief, recognition and uniforms branch, directorate of force development at the Pentagon.

While any detergent can be used to launder the uniform, fabric softeners or bleach should be avoided. The uniform should be tumble dried at the low heat setting, too.

The ABU, which replaces the temperate and hot-weather Battle Dress Uniform and the Desert Camouflage Uniform, made its first appearance in late summer 2007 when it was issued to Airmen deploying to Iraq, Afghanistan and Southwest Asia. It was also issued in October to basic military trainees in the initial-issue clothing bag. It was authorized for wear by all Air Force personnel, including Reserve and National Guard, in November.

The ABU, which was fit-and-wear tested in 2004 and altered based on feedback, is designed to be a wash-and-wear uniform. Starching and hot pressing is still prohibited; these procedures deteriorate the fiber in the uniform."
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Posted on 10/06/08 18:43:31

Brady Sunley wrote:

I am currently using my dad's old BDU from 1985 for airsofting, and was wondering how I would go about washing it, because I would like to keep it in tip-top shape because it's the only uniform I have. I'm also planning on buying a set of ACU, but for now I'm just using the woodland BDU.
Posted on 11/29/09 15:58:11

honeyscreativehomemaking wrote:

ALL Free & Clear contains NO Optical Brightners
Posted on 01/28/10 11:34:38

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