Manufacturers create flame-resistant clothing (FRC) to protect employees from flash fire hazards that may occur on job sites. Today's styles range from work uniforms to casual flame-resistant jeans and pullover hoodies. If you’re an employee of an industry that has fire hazards as a top concern, you likely know the benefits of utilizing this type of clothing. Furthermore, you may be aware that all pieces must be flame resistant and meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. What you may not know is how to care for your clothing and how to ensure your fire-resistant outfits will last. You should look to the manufacturer's instructions for the best results and most extended garment life.
Flame-resistant clothing should self-extinguish and resist catching fire. It's a crucial part of safety for workers exposed to sparks, flames, or chemicals, such as workers in industries like the oil and gas field. Laboratory professionals and any person who works with chemicals are also at risk and need to wear specialty clothing at work. In fact, some companies are providing FR clothing as onboarding gifts to welcome new employees while keeping them safe on the job. But fire-resistant clothing only works when you clean and maintain it properly. If you don’t wash and dry it correctly, or if you include a certain additive in the load, its fire-resistant properties can become compromised.
Thus, it's vital to ensure your flame-resistant clothing remains effective by following these basic tips to care for your flame-resistant clothing.
Follow the Manufacturer's Washing Instructions
Just like every other piece of clothing, fire-resistant clothing will come with the manufacturer's instructions on the tag. By following these instructions, you can ensure that you’ll extend the life of your clothing and your protection on each job site. Some examples of these instructions include:
- Wash your flame-resistant clothing in a different load than other fabrics.
- Use cold or warm water, but not hot water (hot water can shrink your clothes).
- Presoak the item in hot water to help remove tough stains.
- Dry flat or line dry, if possible. If you must tumble dry your clothing in the dryer, use low heat.
Don't use laundry aids like fabric softener, starch, or dryer sheets. These additives can coat the fibers, which can alter their protective property. Moreover, they can be fuel in a flash fire.
Use Any Laundry Detergent
You can use regular detergent to wash and care for your flame-resistant clothing, and it won’t damage your pieces. There are specialty laundry products made for FR clothing. These products are gentler on the fabric but still remove stains. While regular home laundry detergent is safe to use, it may not be successful in removing all the job-related messes that accumulate. If your clothes get soiled with hard-to-remove substances like grass or oil, you can purchase other detergents and even pretreat your clothing pieces by soaking them in the detergent and water. Turn your clothing inside out when laundering. This will not only maintain its color longer but can also help extend the life of all your clothing.
Consider packing an extra outfit in your vehicle. If your FR clothing becomes contaminated with any flammable substance, remove it right away and change into your clean flame-resistant outfit. You won't have to leave the job site and slow down productivity. When you return home, immediately wash the soiled item separately from all other clothing.
Avoid Chlorine Bleach
Chlorine bleach is a harsh chemical and can strip clothing of its luster. We try to avoid bleach on things because it can damage the very fibers of a garment, most noticeably by stripping the color. Bleach can also strip away at the flame-resistant coating on FR clothing. Most flame-resistant clothing is made of cotton or cotton blends, and chlorine bleach can damage the fabric and reduce its flame-resistant properties.
Because bleach can also take the color out of the garment, you want to avoid washing your fire-resistant clothing with anything that you have bleached to prevent the transfer of the chemicals. If you're not sure if your clothes require a special cleaning process, you should read the care label carefully or consult the manufacturer's website for further details.
Pay Attention to Water Temperature
When you wash and care for your flame-resistant clothing, you must pay attention to the temperature of the water. While you can honestly launder your clothing in whatever water temperature you choose, you want to use warm water whenever possible. As with regular clothing, cold water may not get your fire-protection garments as clean as you would like, and hot water can shrink them, especially if they are cotton pieces. While the heat from hot water won't hurt your garments, if you care for your clothing properly, it won't be necessary to purchase items as often, which can quickly add up.
Additionally, it is okay to dry your fire-resistant clothing in the dryer. The heat from the dryer will not damage your FR clothing. If you choose to hang the garment to dry, make sure it is completely dry before putting it back on. You can also iron your clothing if you would like; just ensure that your iron is on the lowest setting.
Your FR Wardrobe
Today's FR clothing can come in a variety of colors and styles. You can find hoodies, jeans, and sweatshirts that can be stylish while still offering protection. The most important thing is that you follow the manufacturer's instructions for the best results and most extended garment life. Cleaning and routine maintenance is the key to extending the life of your flame-resistant clothing. If you want to keep your FR clothing in mint condition, you should use products designed for it. Many everyday laundry products contain chemicals that can damage or coat fabric and render it ineffective against flash fire hazards.
Now you know how to best take care of your flame-resistant clothing. By following the guidelines we've laid out for you here, you'll keep your FR clothing in good condition and ensure that it continues to provide protection when you need it the most.