How Long Does Flame-Resistant (FR) Clothing Last?

FR clothing is designed to withstand the heat and damage caused by fire. Uniforms are created with flame resistance to protect the person wearing the uniform from burns and other thermal injuries.

The clothes, once treated with FR chemicals, should be able to resist flames. If the source of the fire is removed, the garment may be able to put out the flames, so the wearer is not harmed.

The length of time FR uniforms remain resistant to flames will depend on how the clothes are washed and treated over time. If it is cared for according to manufacturer’s directions, flame-resistant clothing should remain resistant to flames for as long as the clothes are wearable.

Chemicals to Avoid

You will, of course, have to wash your FR uniform to keep it fresh and clean for work, but when you do, you should avoid using the following products:

  • Bleach.

  • Detergents or other laundry products that include bleach.

  • Laundry soaps that contain lard or other animal fat.

  • Fabric softener, dryer sheets or any laundry products used specifically to add scent.

Bleach is a harsh chemical that may interfere with the efficacy of the flame-resistant material. Animal fats and scented softeners are flammable, which will ruin the flame resistance of the uniform. Additionally, it is important to note that if you use DEET-based sprays to protect against bug bites, you should never spray them on the uniform because they are flammable.

Temperature Makes a Big Difference

Most FR uniforms include a tag with directions on how to wash the item. Some will indicate “IL,” “LS” or “HW” to help you know which temperature water to use. 

IL means “industrial wash” and indicates the water temperature should stay below 165 degrees. LS means “light soil wash,” and the water temperature should stay lower than 140 degrees. HW means “home wash,” and the water temperature should remain lower than 120 degrees.

It is important that the water is hot enough to remove dirt from the uniforms but not so hot it damages the flame resistance. Make sure to use the appropriate temperature.

Separate FR Clothes From Other Clothes in the Wash

No matter which kind of wash is indicated, it is important to wash your FR uniforms separately from other clothes. Other clothes in the laundry may have chemicals on them or other substances that may damage the flame resistance in the uniforms. Additionally, they may require laundry detergent or spot cleaners that cannot be used on FR uniforms.

Manufacturer’s Directions Matter

Not all manufacturers of FR uniforms make their clothes in the same way. Some may use different fabrics, different flame-resistant chemicals or different amounts of those chemicals. Each manufacturer will have different directions for proper care. It’s important to double-check that new uniforms are being washed appropriately.

In some cases, the manufacturer may suggest replacing the item after a period of time to ensure the uniform is as safe as possible. Following their directions can help keep you as safe as possible for as long as possible. 

Different Types of Fabric Will Retain Flame Resistance Longer Than Others

Some uniforms are made with 100% cotton, and others are made from cotton-nylon blends. Still others are made from synthetic blends. Although all these fabrics will be treated with FR chemicals to be made into uniforms, the quality and texture of these fabrics vary and retain flame resistance differently.

For example, some manufacturers state that uniforms made with FR 100% cotton will last from a year to 16 months as long as they are worn and washed once a week. Cotton-nylon blends will generally remain flame-resistant for anywhere from 18 months to 30 months if they are washed and worn once a week. The most long-term FR fabric solution for uniforms is a synthetic blend, which can last from 24 months to four years, depending on how it is cared for.

How to Know When It’s Time to Replace an FR Uniform

There are a number of signs that it’s time to retire a uniform because of its lack of flame resistance:

  • Thin patches or worn areas. If the fabric is worn out, there are abrasions to the fabric or there are any areas where you can see the fabric, the uniform’s integrity has been compromised, and it’s time to discard it.

  • Rips or tears. Similarly, rips or holes in the fabric mean that it is no longer able to protect the wearer’s skin from flames and thermal injury. Any flames will go directly to the skin because there is no barrier.

  • Significant alterations. If the fabric is cut and resewn aggressively, it may no longer be serviceable as protection, especially in the areas of the new seams.

  • Misshapen uniform. If the fabric is old enough to become baggy or it no longer fits the wearer the way it should, it may not be protective and should be replaced.

  • Bleach contact. If any part of the uniform comes into contact with bleach on the job or in the process of being cleaned, it’s time to replace it.

  • Irreparably dirty. If the uniform has been cleaned but still smells like chemicals, has greasy stains or is otherwise no longer serviceable, a new uniform is needed.

Alsco Keeps Businesses Stocked in FR Uniforms

Alsco ensures that FR uniforms are washed according to standards. We will also remove old uniforms from the rotation and make sure employees always have the safe, FR uniforms they need. Call now to get more information about how we can help you take care of your FR uniform needs!

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