Tips for Washing Flame Resistant (FR) Clothing
It is important for linemen and other utility workers to always be protected when they work. This means using the proper safety gear, fall protection equipment, and clothing. The clothing that linemen use should not only be durable, but also flame resistant. The high voltage systems that linemen work on are a constant fire hazard which makes flame-resistant (FR) clothing a must.
Over time, FR clothing will become dirty, especially if the same clothing is used each workday. Washing your FR clothing regularly will help extend the life of your garments so they can continue to keep you safe. Before you wash your FR clothes, it is important to know how to do it properly. Flame- and fire-resistant clothing cannot be washed the same way as your normal clothing.
In this guide, we will cover how to properly wash your FR clothes and remove stains. We will also list things you should avoid doing that can either damage your FR clothing or compromise their flame-resistant abilities.
If you need FR clothing for your employees, Divergent Alliance provides FR clothing to help keep your employees safe. We work with the best manufacturers of the industry to provide a range of FR clothes including pants, shirts, hoodies, face masks, neck gaiters, and more.
Call Divergent Alliance at (847) 531-0559 or submit a contact form to learn more about our volume pricing for wholesale FR clothing. We also offer fast shipping across the United States.
What is Flame Resistant Clothing?
Flame-resistant clothing is clothing made from flame-resistant fabric that protects those who work in environments in which they are exposed to flames or heat. FR clothing is designed to resist igniting, stop the spread of flames, and self-extinguish as soon as the clothing is removed from the fire or heat source.
All fire-resistant clothing must meet the requirements laid out in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 2112. These clothes are made from specific types of fabric that are each designed to resist flames and heat. The following are the four types of fabric used for FR clothing:
- Inherently FR fibers: Inherently FR fibers are fibers that are naturally flame resistant. There is no need to apply additional flame-retardant chemicals to this fabric.
- Treated fabrics: Treated fabrics are fabrics with an applied flame-retardant chemical that makes the clothing flame resistant. Fabrics such as cotton which is not naturally flame resistant can be treated with these chemicals.
- Treated fibers: Treated fibers are synthetic fibers that are extruded with a flame-retardant chemical during their formation which makes them flame resistant. The flame retardant cannot be washed out of treated fibers and they can provide protection for the life of the garment.
- Blends: Some FR clothing can be made from a fabric that is a blend of inherently FR fibers and treated fibers.
Washing Flame Resistant Clothing
You can wash your FR clothing in a regular home washing machine or industrial washing machine, and you can have FR clothes dry cleaned. It is also possible to remove stains from dirt and flammable materials like oils and grease from these clothes.
Before we get into the tips on washing your FR clothing, it is important for you to know what NOT to do with these clothes:
- Do not use bleach or detergents that contain bleach. Bleach will break down the molecular bond between the fabric and FR treatment over time, reducing its flame resistance.
- Do not use fabric softeners or detergents with fabric softeners. Fabric softener can reduce flame resistance by masking the fabric and it is even flammable itself.
- Do not use starch or detergents with animal fats. Starch acts as a propellent and animal fats are flammable. If you have your FR clothing dry cleaned, make sure there is no starch used in the process.
- Do not apply DEET to FR clothing. DEET is a common and effective mosquito repellent that should only be applied directly to your skin because it is flammable. However, you can apply a permethrin to your FR clothing because it will not affect the flame-resistant quality of your clothing or add any flammability. Make sure to use powder permethrin when washing it into your clothes or a water-based spray when applying it. Non water-based sprays typically use flammable propellants.
Follow these steps when washing your FR clothing in your home washing machine:
- FR clothing can be washed in a normal cycle or permanent press depending on the type of garment. Insulated outerwear and canvas garments can be washed in normal cycles while FR shirts and other knit clothing should be washed in the permanent press cycle using cold water.
- You do not need to wash your FR clothing separate from your normal clothing but washing them separately will prevent them from getting your normal clothes dirty and help you avoid overloading the machine.
- Most FR clothing can be washed and dried at any temperature in home washing machines and dryers. It is best to check the labels of your clothing for washing temperature recommendations to avoid shrinkage.
- Turn your FR clothing inside out to avoid streaking caused by abrasion. If you do not turn your garments inside out and streaking does occur, this is a cosmetic issue and will not affect the flame-resistant qualities of the garment.
- Remember to avoid bleach, fabric softeners, starch, and the cleaning products discussed in the section above.
- Use soft or conditioned water as this will help remove contaminants. Hard water will cause soap to precipitate which will lead to calcium and magnesium salt buildups. These buildups can be fuel for an ignition.
- Make sure all soil and contaminants are removed from the garments. You can presoak them and wash them in hot water to help remove embedded contaminants. If the washing process does not remove stains, you can try to remove them with stain remover products or have them dry cleaned.
- Dry your FR clothing at a low heat and if you iron them, use the low setting.
- If you have additional questions about the care of your specific FR clothing, you can consult the manufacturer.
If you are washing your FR clothes in an industrial machine at a laundromat or somewhere else, follow these instructions:
- With industrial machines, you need to wash your FR clothing separate or you could damage the luminescent effect.
- FR clothing should be washed with soft water because hard water will disrupt the cleaning and cause deposits of mineral salts to build up on the clothing. These deposits will negate the flame-resistant qualities of your clothing. Hard water also precipitates soaps and causes a buildup of magnesium salts and calcium which can mask the flame resistant and luminescent properties of the fabric.
- Use only non-ionic detergents and avoid natural soaps.
- The correct detergent types and temperatures according to the manufacturer’s instructions should be followed to thoroughly clean your clothing.
- Remember to avoid using bleach, starch, fabric softener and the other cleaning products discussed above.
- Heavily soiled garments should be flushed at 105 degrees at the beginning of the cycle to help loosen the soil and reduce abrasion.
- Use a short extract time to prevent wrinkles.
- Be careful not to over dry to avoid shrinkage, keep the total temperature below 280 degrees.
- Tunnel finishing at less than 280 degrees followed by a cool down to 100 degrees will improve the appearance of the clothing.
- You can press your FR clothing using a short cycle but makes sure the temperature of the press head does not exceed 280 degrees.
Stains, especially stains from flammable substances like gas, oils, and grease should be removed right away. In many instances, simply washing your FR clothing in the washing machine can remove the stains, but the detergents may not be strong enough to remove stains from flammable materials. Residual stains from flammable materials can compromise the flame resistance of your FR clothing.
After laundering, check your FR clothing to see if there are any remaining stains or odors from flammable contaminants. If the stain remains, wash your clothing with an industrial or commercial washer or have your clothing dry cleaned.
You can dry clean your FR clothing as long as the clothing is dry cleaned with a petroleum or perchloroethylene solvent. No starch should be used on FR clothes during the dry cleaning process.
Flame Resistant Clothing from Divergent Alliance
Regularly washing your FR clothing using the tips discussed above will help you keep your clothes free of stains and contaminants and extend their life. If you are unsure of how to wash a specific FR garment that you own, always check the washing instructions or reach out to the manufacturer for more information.
Divergent Alliance is a trusted provider of lineman tools and supplies, including flame-resistant clothing. If you need flame-resistant clothing to ensure that your employees are protected, contact us at (847) 531-0559.