Laundering FR clothing isn’t particularly difficult but some detergents, fabric softeners, bleaches, starches, and dryer sheets can compromise the flame-resistant properties of the garments.
When washing FR clothes, stick to additive-free, non-ionic detergent, and skip all the extras. Here are some of the problems that may compromise the fire-resistance of FR clothing.
1. Dryer Sheets
Dryer sheets don’t often list all the ingredients on the box, as cleaning products are only mandated to list active disinfectants and known hazards. How they work, however, remains essentially the same.
Dryer sheets contain a surfactant, along with a fatty molecule, such as silicone oil. When the dryer heats up, this surfactant heats up and the fatty molecule (along with all additives) coats clothes. As this fatty substance can be flammable, coating FR clothing with it compromises the flame resistance.
2. Fabric Softener
The same concept of dryer sheets applies to fabric softener, which coats clothing in a wide variety of flammable chemicals in order to lubricate fibers. In order to fully understand what chemical reactions may occur on the job site, it would be necessary to know all the chemicals used in the fabric softener, which is a trade secret.
Avoid complications by avoiding using fabric softener on FR clothing.
3. Chlorine Bleach
Bleach is a chemical solution typically made of sodium hypochlorite or hydrogen peroxide. In low concentrations, bleach can effectively sterilize clothing, however, when used on FR clothing, the performance of fabric will likely be compromised.
Not only will some residue remain on every fiber of the clothing, but the chemical reaction can negatively affect the FR treatment. If any FR clothing has come into contact with bleach, it’s best to put it out of commission.
While it is possible to iron FR clothing on Permanent Press or Low, starch should never be used. When mixed with water and applied to clothing before ironing, it melts and coats the fibers in clothes.
Starch is flammable and, when applied to FR clothing, creates an increased fire risk.
Doing laundry for FR clothing is not particularly difficult, but you need to review the laundry instructions to maximize safety and reduce risk. When FR clothing is compromised by using laundry additives, the risk of injury greatly increases.