Cleaning Your Case
Now and then, people ask us for advice on cleaning Porta-Brace cases. Since we recondition older cases, we have accumulated quite a bit of experience on this subject, so we thought we would pass along to you what we have learned.
First, a word on what not to do: don't try to clean your case in a washing machine. It won't hurt the materials but it will beat up the case as a whole and distort its shape. Dry cleaning is also out of the question. In fact, there is no need for a machine to clean a Cordura® case. For removing accumulated dust and grit, use a regular vacuum cleaner with the window-blind attachment. It will brighten things up. We also recommend a brass bristle brush—the kind sold in super markets for scrubbing pots and pans. Cordura® is tough. A vigorous brass-bristle brushing won't hurt it.
For dirt that simply will not brush off, we recommend upholstery cleaner which can be bought at most auto supply stores. Use it according to the manufacturer's instructions. Any stains that the upholstery cleaner won't remove—such as spots of tar, etc.— try removing with lacquer thinner. Dab it on with any piece of absorbent cloth or cotton and then wipe it off. Lacquer thinner will not harm Cordura® nylon or interior foam padding, but it should not be used on vinyl, so keep it away from clear vinyl windows the white balance cards.
To clean vinyl windows and white balance cards, use either soap and warm water or the kind of hand cleaner that you can buy in auto supply stores—the kind without grit. Gritty cleaner will scratch vinyl and should certainly be avoided in cleaning clear windows. "Novus" Plastic Polish will do the job for cleaning plastics and clear vinyl and it's available at most art supply stores. However, cleaning the removable white balance cards with a bar of (gritty) Lava soap will give them a "matte finish" that may be preferred.
Once your case is clean, any surface wicking of moisture can be significantly prevented with a water repellent product like Scotchgard (made by 3-M and widely available). However, this will not make the case much more waterproof than it already is, since the real waterproofing is the urethane coating on the inside of the Cordura®. The only thing that you might do, if you are a stickler for waterproofing, is to treat the seams with Seam Seal (the gooey stuff that comes in a tube, sold by those who sell tents and rain gear). The cases obviously are not designed to be immersed in a river, but they are designed to shed rain effectively without further treatment—even when dirty.
In fact, if you like your case just the way it is, proudly wearing the dust and stains of long and faithful service, there’s no reason to think about cleaning it at all. You can save yourself the cost of a brass bristle brush and a can of upholstery cleaner-carry on.