Working in an industry that requires the wearing of fire-retardant clothing means that you have to know how to properly care for it. Contrary to popular belief, caring for this kind of clothing involves a different process than with regular clothing.
Work clothing of the flame-retardant variety was created to be durable and able to handle high temperatures. This durability can render conventional methods for cleaning flame-retardant clothing ineffective. It simply is not advisable to place this type of clothing into a standard washing machine and adding soap, as this can actually damage the fabric.
Water, Soap and other Additives
Hard water is something else that can damage staff clothing constructed to be flame-retardant. But this doesn’t mean that flame-retardant clothing cannot be washed. There are many products on the market which, when added to a load of laundry can soften the water. Alternatively, you can add baking soda to a load of clothing to soften the water.
Soap is something else to consider. Some soap can actually damage flame-retardant staff clothing; specifically those containing enzymes, bleach or peroxide. As well, soaps containing animal fats such as tallow soaps should be avoided. Softening and stiffening agents like fabric softener and starch should also be avoided.
There are also rules that apply to the professional cleaning of flame-retardant clothing. Here, soft water should also be used, with the avoidance of fats in soaps. Instead, non-ionic soap should be used. Detergents containing sodium hypochlorite should also be avoided, as these can cause bleaching, which is very damaging to luminescent clothing, reducing its effects and therefore compromising the safety of the individual who is wearing it.
The separate washing of fire-retardant clothing should occur in an industrial setting to avoid compromising the luminescence of the garments. As well, it is important that the company knows that abrasion and re-depositing of staining elements can be avoided by setting up washing formulas and load sizes accordingly.
Fire-retardant garments can certainly be dry-cleaned, but it’s important to consider the solvents a dry cleaner uses. For example, a dry cleaner that uses perchloroethylene or petroleum solvents is best, as these solvents will be most useful where it comes to the removal of oil and grease.
If attempting to remove stains in the home, warm water may help. However, it must be heated to a maximum temperature of 60 degrees Celsius. This temperature will ensure the right conditions for stain removal without damaging the fabric. It is important not to over-dry clothing and if it needs ironing, a low-temperature setting is recommended.
Industrial stain removal usually involves flushing garments at around 40 degrees Celsius, and then washing them in water with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Once washing is complete, quick extraction is necessary in order to avoid creasing. Drying of fire-retardant clothing on an industrial level should occur at no higher than 165 degrees Fahrenheit, with pressing temperature at 280 degrees Fahrenheit.
Not only was your flame-retardant clothing constructed to be durable, but it was also constructed to keep you safe. If you have the time to clean your garments at home, doing so can save you money, However, there is definitely something to be said for professional care. This may cost more, but it will take far less time to complete.
Given some of the health risks recently associated with washing fire-retardant clothing at home, it may be safer to have your work clothing cleaned professionally. Your workplace may be able to direct you to an industrial garment washing specialist. Or, they may offer in-house service.
Always follow the care instructions provided with the garments or consult your company Health and Safety Officer.