Flame Resistant Garment Cleaning & Care

fire-resistant-garments

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A fire-resistant garment is a mandatory piece of clothing often required in an environment where a worker is exposed to flame or heat. Its purpose is to resist ignition, prevent the spread of fire, as well as self-extinguish after removal from the ignition source. 

If you own FR clothing, you should know how to wash it so that it lasts longer and continues to keep you safe in the workplace. But, you have to be careful when washing your FR clothing because it requires specialized cleaning and care. As long as you use the right types of equipment, you can wash flame-resistant clothing easily and safely. Here’s how to wash fire-resistant clothes.

Types of FR Fabric

There are four different types of fire-resistant fabric, and all four require special cleaning and extra care. These types of FR fabrics are presented to you below:

  • Inherently FR fibers – are defined as having flame resistance as an essential characteristic on the fiber. These fibers are naturally flame resistant, so they don’t require additional frame-retardant chemicals. Moreover, they cannot lose their flame resistance from regular wearing or laundering, so, the garment will keep its flame-resistant characteristics throughout its life.
  • Treated fabrics – are a combination of fibers that make a garment when put together with other fabrics. These fabrics are usually 100% cotton fibers or cotton mixed with nylon. Treated fabrics are fire resistant when a flame retardant chemical is applied to the fabric.
  • Treated fibers – created from synthetic fibers have a flame retardant chemical applied during the fiber-forming process, thus making the fibers fire-resistant for all their life. The flame retardant cannot be removed by wear or laundering. 
  • Blends – Some FR clothing can be made from a hybrid blend of treated and inherently fire-resistant fibers.

Why Do I Need To Wash My FR Garment Differently?

When washing your fire-resistant clothes, it is essential to note that you don’t wash them as regular clothes since they might get damaged. Below you can find some tips on cleaning your garments safely to keep you protected for a long time. 

How To Wash Fire Resistant Clothes

how-to-wash-your-FR-clothes

When it comes to FR clothing maintenance, regular cleaning must take place. But you can’t just toss your gear in a washing machine with your regular load, of course. Let’s discuss how to wash and launder FR clothing.

Industrial laundry

Industrial laundry is one way to clean your fire-resistant clothes. Follow these steps carefully for a successful result:

  • Wash separately from other garments to avoid damaging the luminescent effect.
  • Fire-resistant clothes should be cleaned using soft water (less than 4.0 grains) since hard water negatively affects cleaning, increasing detergent usage. Furthermore, hard water contains mineral salts that form insoluble deposits on the surface of the fabrics. This surface buildup can negate the flame-resistant characteristics of the garment and may serve as fuel if clothes are exposed to fire.
  • It would be best to use non-ionic formulas; remember, you don’t want to use natural soaps (anionic or tallow soap). 
  • The water temperature for cleaning all contaminated surfaces can be up to 140º F) which is appropriate for cleaning all contaminated surfaces.
  • Avoid using Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) since repeated exposure to bleach can destroy the luminescent effect.
  • If your garments are heavily contaminated with particulate or abrasive soils, you should rinse them first at 105º F (40ºC) at the beginning of the cycle to reduce abrasion. However, you should set up wash formulas and load sizes to minimize redeposition and fabric abrasion. 
  • It is not recommended to use starch, fabric softener, and other laundry additives since they coat the fiber and mask the FR performance or serve as fuel when exposed to fire.
  • To prevent overdrying, condition at a stacked setting of 165°F so fabric temperature measured in the basket does not exceed 280°F.
  • It would help if you adequately cooled down to 100ºF or less while conditioning for the best appearance.
  • If you want to, garments may be pressed using a short cycle. However, it is not recommended to exceed a fabric temperature of 280ºF under the press head.
  • You should always consult the garment manufacturer for more detailed instructions and precautions.

Home wash

Follow these steps to wash your fire-resistant clothes at home properly:

  • Wash separately in regular or cotton cycles at any water temperature up to a maximum of 140ºF (60ºC). You can use any home laundry detergent. However, using soap is not recommended.
  • Turn your garments inside out to reduce abrasion streaking, then fill the washer for ⅔ full and use a high water level.
  • Don’t use chlorine bleach or liquid non-chlorine bleach.
  • Don’t use starch or fabric softeners as they may coat fibers and mask FR performance, or even worse, serve as fuel when exposed to fire.
  • Using conditioned or soft water can help the removal of contaminants from garments. Hard water precipitates soaps and can result in calcium and magnesium salts buildup at the surface. These can also serve as fuel when exposed to fire or a source of fire.
  • To completely remove all soils and other contaminants from garments during the wash process, it is essential to use stain removal products such as Shout, Spray’ n Wash, or Zout. It would also help to presoak garments before washing them. Using hot water can also help by making detergents more effective. Unfortunately, sometimes you cannot remove all contaminants at home; in that case, garments should be dry cleaned.
  • Don’t dry your FR clothing; instead, you may press with an iron on the Press/Low setting.
  • You should always consult the garment manufacturer for more detailed instructions and precautions. 

Dry cleaning

If contaminants on your garments are hard to be removed, dry cleaning is the best option. Either perchloroethylene or petroleum solvent may be used when dry cleaning flame-resistant garments.

How To Remove Stains From Fire Resistant Clothes

Here are some tips when dealing with those stubborn stains from flammable substances:

  • If your garments become contaminated with flammable substances, they should be removed immediately and replaced with clean flame-resistant clothing. 
  • If you want to remove most flammable and non-flammable soil, home and industrial laundry might successfully eliminate them. However, home laundry detergents might not successfully remove some types of dirt in the industry, such as heavy greases and oily soils. If flammable soils are not removed, it may compromise the flame resistance of the garment.
  • It might be challenging to determine whether the flammable soils are thoroughly removed or not, but some indicators would be the presence of stains and odors after laundering. If it appears that the garments are still contaminated after home wash, industrial laundry is required. You can also use dry cleaning to remove grease and oils.
  • Always consult with the garment manufacturer for more detailed instructions and precautions.

Repair And Maintenance Of Fire Resistant Clothes

repair-and-maintainance-of-FR-clothes

To repair and maintain your garments, you have to use the same material as your fire-resistant clothes and follow these steps in restoring and preserving them.

  • ASTM International has developed two standards for repairing and maintaining FR clothes. Standard F 1449 Guide for Industrial Laundering of Flame, Thermal, and Arc Resistant Clothing, cover maintenance of garments by industrial laundry. On the other hand, Standard F 2757 Guide for Home Laundering Care and Maintenance of Flame, Thermal, and Arc Resistant Clothing, gives information for home care and maintenance of flame-resistant protective clothing.
  • It would be best to make all repairs with the same material as the original material in your garments. However, manufacturers use special fire-resistant threads to patch a hole that won’t catch on fire.
  • Always consult the manufacturer for more detailed instructions and precautions.

Bottom Line

It is essential to care for your flame-resistant clothing and ensure it is not compromised and is still effective. And remember, when cleaning your flame-resistant clothes, you have to be careful and use the correct procedures and equipment so as not to damage your garments or endanger yourself.

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