It's no secret that wearing the right fire retardant (FR) clothing is becoming an essential precaution in a growing number of industries, but how should you properly care for flame resistant garments? While many industrial launderers would like you to believe that FR clothing needs special laundering services, it’s not true; home laundering is just as safe and much more cost-effective.
Incorrectly laundering FR clothing can compromise the FR performance so you should always follow the detailed laundering and care instructions provided by the garment manufacturer. Here are three common FR laundering practices that will help you properly care for your FR clothing.
1 - Avoid Hard Water
Hard water causes minerals like calcium and magnesium salts to build up on cotton flame retardant fabric. This can mask FR properties or make your protective clothing more flammable, and the last thing you want is your protective clothing serving as fuel in the event of ignition exposure. You can avoid this by using soft water whenever you wash your FR clothing.
2 - Avoid High Temperatures
Water and drying temperature can also have an impact on your FR clothes. To preserve the protective qualities of your clothing, the water temperature should not exceed 140ºF. When it's time to dry, make sure the fabric temperature doesn’t exceed 280ºF. Consider using the medium heat or permanent press setting as well as the cool down feature on your dryer.
Just like with regular clothing, some protective wear fabrics shrink during drying. Most shrinkage happens within the first five washes. Specifically this happens at the very end of an overly dry setting. It's extremely important that you do not over dry. Avoid shrinkage by washing your garments in warm, not hot water and, whenever possible, line dry instead of using a dryer.
Each type of FR fabric has predictable shrinkage characteristics. If you are uncertain, the garment manufacturer can provide this information. Be sure to consider it when sizing and purchasing the garments.
3 - Inspect Your Garment Regularly
Do you know when it’s time to retire a piece of fire retardant clothing? Your protective wear can’t protect your health and safety if the integrity is compromised. If the garment is contaminated with any flammable materials, remove it by using spot cleaners like Shout, Spray N’ Wash or Zout, then launder it. Detergents sold for home use can be used except for ones containing chlorine or peroxide bleach. An extra rinse will ensure that detergent residues are sufficiently removed. Do not use starch or fabric softeners. These could coat fabric fibers and mask FR performance and/or serve as fuel for ignition of the fabric. Do not use chlorine bleach or peroxide bleaches.
After laundering your garment it may still appear stained. The presence of hydrocarbon odors is an indication that the garment is still contaminated with flammable materials. If the garment is still stained but there is no hydrocarbon smell, then the fabric may be discolored. Dry cleaning with petroleum solvent or perchloroethlyene may remove stubborn stains but since not all FR fabric can be dry cleaned, consult the laundering and care instructions provided by the garment manufacturer.
Minor tears can be repaired with patches made of flame resistant fabric but you might be better off just replacing the garment entirely. If wear indicators like tears, threadbare or frayed edges, stains from stubborn flammable materials, contact with bleach, or frayed seams, edges, and collars are present, it’s time to stop wearing the garment to minimize your risk of injury.
Knowing how to properly care for and wash your fire retardant clothing will help make sure your protective wear lasts longer and protects the way it was meant to protect you. Do you have any additional questions or concerns on how to properly launder your fire retardant safety clothing? ORR Safety experts are happy to help you in any way they can. Simply give us a call or send us your questions via the form on this page.