Dirty Containers

Q:

 

Can I get my dirty container cleaned?

 

A:Moving around in airplanes, hanging your rig in a dusty hangar, packing your rig on a dirty floor and landing ungracefully will take a toll on the cleanliness of your container. At some point, just about everyone’s container will benefit from a well-deserved cleaning.

To stretch out the time between cleanings, some jumpers opt to have their riggers apply a light coating of fabric protector such as Scotchgard to their new or recently cleaned rigs. Bear in mind that a fabric protector will seal in any dirt that remains when it is applied, so the rig needs to be very clean. You should not apply the fabric protector yourself, and your rigger should check with the manufacturer prior to application since manufacturers’ recommendations vary.

If you get mud on your container, wait for it to dry completely and then brush it off with a soft-bristle brush. This is the most effective way of removing localized dirt, although you may have to repeat the process several times. You can also use a spot-remover spray on small areas if it won’t affect your rig’s other components. For example, using spot remover on grass stains on your leg straps should be OK, but you should have your rigger or rig manufacturer handle removing an ink stain on a reserve flap.

When it comes time for a complete wash, you’ll want to have your rigger handle the task since the process of disassembling and reassembling the rig can be complicated. Ask your rigger to check if he is not sure about the process that your particular rig manufacturer recommends, as they can be different. When manufacturers wash rigs directly for customers, some will send them to local dry cleaners while others will wash them in-house. However, dry cleaners that receive rigs will most likely simply wash them in an industrial washing machine using a detergent made for delicate fabrics rather than subjecting them to the chemical dry cleaning process used for clothing.

Most manufacturers simply advise stripping everything possible out of the container and hand washing it using a soft-bristle brush in a tub of lukewarm or cold water with a very mild detergent such as Woolite. Then rinse, rinse and rinse some more. Master Rigger Mark Lancaster remarked that he probably spends more time rinsing rigs than washing them. “I rinse the rig a bunch of times,” said Lancaster, “until I don’t see any more bubbles or evidence of the soap coming out.”

After the rinse, your rigger should dry off the metal hardware with a towel and hang the rig in a space where it can get lots of air. If he uses a large fan to blow air across the container as it hangs, the drying process will go much more quickly, but you should still plan on allowing 24-48 hours for the rig to dry before your rigger reassembles it.

After a wash, you will notice that your rig—even if it’s dark colored—will look much brighter. It is surprising to see how much dirt rinses out of a rig that does not even look that dirty. Although you can do some minor cleaning on your own, an occasional thorough washing by your rigger or gear manufacturer will go a long way toward making everything fresh and can help the container last longer in the long run.

—Jim Crouch | D-16979
USPA Director of Safety & Training and FAA Senior Rigger

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