One of the main benefits of renting your uniforms is that the provider washes your flame resistant (FR) clothing for you. However, if you own or are considering a direct buy program for your uniforms, then you need to know how to wash your FR clothing. This is critical for extending the longevity of the garments so they continue to keep you safe.
If this is your first experience with FR, then let’s start with the reason for these protective garments. These are garments that are worn in areas where a worker is exposed to flame or heat. They are intended to resist ignition, prevent the spread of flames, and self-extinguish almost immediately after removal from the original ignition source. FR garments have specific requirements they must meet, including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 2112.
The 4 Different Types of FR Fabric
According to Bulwark, all FR fabric requires special safety and care considerations. There are currently four different variations:
- Inherently FR Fibers – these are defined as having flame-resistance as an essential characteristic of the fiber. These fibers don’t require additional flame-retardant chemicals, due to the fibers being naturally flame resistant.
- Treated Fabrics – these are fibers that are treated with a flame retardant chemical that makes them flame-resistant. An example is cotton, which is not normally protective, but the treatment makes them FR.
- Treated Fibers – the fabric created from treated synthetic fibers, which extruded with a flame retardant chemical in the fiber-forming process, become flame-resistant for the life of the garment because the flame retardant cannot be removed by wear of laundering.
- Blends – some FR fabric is a hybrid blend of treated and inherently FR fibers.
Why Do I Need To Wash my FR Clothing Differently?
If this is a question you are asking yourself, then it’s definitely important to note these points, when washing any FR-treated clothing. Below are all the points from Bulwark, when washing your FR garments, at home.
How To Wash Your FR Clothing At Home
- Wash separately in a Normal or Cotton cycle at any water temperature up to a maximum of 140ºF (60ºC). Use any typical home laundry detergent. Do not use soap (tallow soap containing animal fats).
- Turn garments inside out before wash to reduce streaking from abrasion. Fill the washer no more than 2/3 full and use high water level.
- DO NOT use chlorine bleach or liquid non-chlorine bleach.
- Do not use starch or fabric softeners as they may coat fibers and mask FR performance and/or serve as fuel in the event of garment ignition.
- The use of conditioned or soft water can help improve removal of contaminants from garments. Hard water precipitates soaps and can result in the build-up of calcium and magnesium salts. These can serve as fuel in the event they are exposed to a source of ignition.
- It is important that all soils and other contaminants are completely removed from garments during the wash process. This may require the use of stain removal products, such as Shout®, Spray ‘n Wash®, or Zout®; or presoaking garments prior to washing. The use of hot water can often make detergents more effective in the removal of soils. If all contaminants cannot be removed in home care, garments should be dry cleaned.
- Do not over dry garments. If desired, you may press with an iron on the Permanent Press/Low setting.
- Always consult the garment manufacturer for detailed instructions and precautions.
Removing Stains From FR Clothing
If your garments should become contaminated with any flammable substances, they should be removed immediately and replaced with clean flame resistant apparel. Either home or industrial laundering may successfully remove most types of both flammable and non-flammable soils. However, home laundry detergents may not successfully remove some types of soil found out on a job site, especially heavy greases and any oily soils. If flammable soils are not completely removed, the flame resistance of the garment may be compromised.
Flammable materials are, for the most part, volatile substances that dissipate into the atmosphere–like gasoline. Stains remaining after laundering, on the other hand, are either un-removed contaminants or, more likely, simply discoloration of the fabric. It may be difficult to determine that flammable soils have been completely removed, but indicators would include the presence of stains and/or odors after laundering. However, staining alone is not an indication that the soil has not been adequately removed. If it appears that the garments may still be contaminated after home wash, laundering at a local commercial or industrial laundry may be required. Dry cleaning may be used to remove oils and greases.
In conclusion, you can see it’s very important to care for your flame resistant clothing and to ensure the clothing isn’t compromised and continues to work for you. When you are out in any potential hazard, safety is never “good enough.”