How to clean and maintain your NATO strap

So you’ve used your NATO strap for an extended period, and it’s starting to look a bit worse for wear. How do you go about getting it to look spick and span again? In this article, we’ll explain in detail how to clean and maintain your NATO strap.

Are NATO straps colourfast?

 Most NATO straps are made out of polymer or nylon. Both are a type of plastic thread used in clothing. The colour is blended into the polymer during the manufacturing process. So the dye becomes part of the material which forms the strap. If you have washed any nylon or polyester, you’ll be aware that the fabric is not colourfast. 

This is different from cotton, which starts off white, and a dye is absorbed into the fabric to give it colour. The cloth can be made white again by bleaching the colour out.

Throw it into the wash for a general clean

The material is safe for washing in a washing machine at 40 degrees Celcius. But a tumble dryer should be avoided as the heat may damage the fabric.

Because the NATO strap is small and has metal hardware that can get caught into things, it may get trapped around the door on a side-loading washer. It may be useful to put your NATO strap inside a sports sock and tie the end closed. It should prevent it from getting lost inside the door gasket or getting damaged.

The washing machine method is the gentlest way to remove mild dirt and scum and sweat build-up. It’s non-abrasive, and the soapy water will lift the dirt off.

Do not use a dishwasher, a dishwasher sprays a jet of hot air onto non-porous surfaces. It’s not meant for removing dirt from fabric and porous surfaces.

Elbow grease method for ingrained cleaning

For heavy soiling, blood, and other difficult to clean dirt, you may need to wash the dirt off.

Lather any soap into the strap, dish soap, hand soap, detergent all work, but make sure you dilute it and don’t pour it on neat. Work it in with your thumbs, so it has a chance to get into the fibers.

Use a toothbrush to massage the dirt off around the stained area gently. Go gentle with the same pressure as you brush your teeth. Too much pressure can damage the threads and abrade them. Manipulating the NATO by bending it out will allow the bristles to get in deeper.

It is best to be patient and not overdo it. Slowly does it.

For stubborn dirt that doesn’t come off

If the two methods above don’t cut the mustard, you will need to step up a notch and use something a bit stronger. Soak the strap in a bowl full of diluted oxyclean and let it sit for a few minutes and then put the strap in the laundry.


Over time the fibers on the NATO will fray from the rounded end and the buckle holes. Dont be afraid to do some DIY, to tidy up your NATO.

Any fraying thread cut them down to 2-3mm short and use a lighter to burn it down flush. Burning will seal the fraying threads back onto the strap and stop it from happening any more.

Try to bend the strap so that only the fraying bits are exposed to the naked flame.

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