A buyers guide to lint-free clothing
What is lint?
Common fibres such as cotton, wool and linen are made up of bundles of short fibres. During normal wear and washing these fibres can fray and break. These fragments cling to the surface of the garment and then when washed, collect in your washing machine filter and if not cleared can stop it working altogether.
The problems it causes
The accumulation of lint causes problems for many industries. In the textiles industry employees are exposed to large amounts of lint and, if precautions are not taken, inhalation of it can cause lung diseases brought about by the bacteria it carries. Due to the microscopic size of the pieces, surgeons need to be wary of lint transporting bacteria and viruses. To prevent these tiny hitchhikers, surgeons wear lint-free clothing to ensure nothing can be transmitted to their patients.
When lint collects in your dryer it can clog up the intakes. If it’s not removed it can end up destroying your machine or worse present a serious fire hazard. Lint’s electrostatic properties make it extremely harmful to electrical equipment. In industries such as electronics, communications and telecommunications, where delicate machinery is used or produced, this static can build up and damage the electronic components. To prevent this damage companies use clean rooms and lint-free clothing made of specially designed artificial fibres that don’t produce lint.
Lint that collects on the surface of a garment forms a layer of fibres that can become statically charged. This static, if not properly discharged, can cause serious problems for any worker exposed to large amounts of electricity and can even, in the worst case scenario, cause electric arcs.
How to prevent it
Lint can be removed from clothes using a lint roller and can be limited by using fabric softener during washing. However, if you work in industry these precautions won’t be enough.
In industries where static needs to be minimised, a protected area can be created in a defined location with the necessary materials, tools, and equipment capable of controlling static electricity. In this protected area, all conductors in the environment, including personnel, should be bonded or electrically connected and attached to the ground. This attachment creates an electrical balance between all items and personnel. Electrostatic protection can be maintained at a potential above a ‘zero’ voltage ground as long as all items in the system are at the same potential. This can be achieved through the use of ESDs (Electrostatic Sensitive Devices)
ESD clothing and lint-free clothing
ESD garments are woven with conductive threads that conduct the static electricity away from the sensitive equipment down into the ground via a foot strap, much like a Faraday cage, dispersing the excess static charge safely.
Natural fibres are fragile and break up when worn, but the man made fibres used in ESD and lint-free clothing are designed to stretch rather than break, preventing the build up of lint and therefore any risk of the build up of static electricity.
ESD clothing comes in many forms – footwear, overalls and gloves can all be purchased to provide protection to both your workers and your goods.