Flame retardant clothing: Cleaning and care advice

Although flame retardant clothing is rough and tough and able to withstand intense temperatures, they still need proper care to maintain their flame retardant properties and keep the fabric in excellent condition.

It’s not just a case of bunging them in the washing machine, you need to be a bit more considerate than that.

Without proper laundering you run the risk of damaging fabric and potentially putting your life in danger. The lifespan of fire retardant material is directly correlated with proper cleaning and care.


Washing: Essential for maintaining your flame retardant fabrics

Home Cleaning

One of the most important factors in cleaning fire retardant clothing is avoiding hard water. The minerals can stick to the fabric, increasing its flammability. That’s not to say don’t wash your clothing if you live in a hard water area, but be aware you may need to replace your clobber more regularly. Alternatively, you could install a water softener to your mains.

After getting a suitable amount of soft water, dissolve laundry detergent before rinsing the clothing for a couple of minutes, turning it inside out and washing. However, you should avoid detergents which contain peroxide or chlorine bleach and enzymes.

Bleach can weaken the fabric, causing considerable damage. Although it’s tempting, you should also avoid using soaps; particularly tallow soaps which contain animal fats. Soaps, along with fabric softeners and starch can coat the fabric reducing its flame retardant capabilities.

If the stains prove to be too hard to remove, one could alternatively use warm water preheated to a temperature of not more than 600C or 1400F.  That kind of temperature should see off the most stubborn stains and the clothing can . After washing, the clothing should not be over-dried. If you need to iron-press it, use a low heat only.

Industrial Cleaning

As with home cleaning, ideally soft water should be used to clean flame retardant clothing. Only non-ionic detergents and soaps should be used to avoid adversely reducing its flame retardant properties.

Additionally, detergents should not contain sodium hypochlorite which could bleach the garment and subsequently reduce its luminescence effect.

Although industrial cleaning is done on different garments simultaneously, flame retardant clothing should always be washed separately to retain its luminance.


A big boring picture of a big boring washing machine. You’re welcome

If you notice stubborn and abrasive stains on the clothing, reduce the abrasion in the wash wheel by first flushing the garments at 400C. You should subsequently set up load sizes and wash formulas to minimize fabric abrasion and redeposition. As you are washing, avoid using other laundry additives like fabric softeners and starch. It’s also advisable to maintain the pH level of the water between 5.5 and 6.5.

After you are done with the washing, extract the clothing quickly to avoid creases. They could be further avoided through tunnel finishing at temperatures not higher than 2800F. The drying on the other hand, should only be done at a stack setting of 1650F. This ultimately prevents the temperatures of the fabric in the basket rising above 2800F. If you’d like to press the clothing, do it at temperature of 2800F using a short cycle.

Finally, if you choose to dry clean, ensure that only a petroleum solvent or perchloroethylene is used. This is the most most effective way to remove flammable stains like greases and oils. Although home and industrial cleaning are relatively effective, dry cleaning is the quickest and most efficient method. Therefore, you could confidently consult your local dry cleaners any time you need comprehensive cleaning on your flame retardant clothing.

Photo Credits:

Old Advert: From Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license

BIG Washing machine: by Craig Stanfill rom Flickr used under Creative Commons licence


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One Response to Flame retardant clothing: Cleaning and care advice

  1. Renee says:

    A gentle wash on specialist garments such as these can be achieved with The Breathing Mobile Washer Its simple plunging action sucks out dirt and pushes through aerated rinse water for a brilliant clean. It uses far less detergent than a washing machine and you can see if your garment is clean enough rather than closing your eyes and throwing it in the wash for a full cycle!

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