FR clothing, which refers to flame-retardant or flame-resistant clothing, is designed to not catch on fire, prevent the spread of flames and self-extinguish quickly. This type of clothing is worn by workers who are exposed to fire or heat and is meant to protect the wearer.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 2012) has set specific standards for how to care for these garments. We outline them below.
Types of FR Fabric
FR clothing is resilient to heat, which can help prevent burns when exposed to fire and avoid heat transfer from heat exposure. Some materials, including Kevlar, modacrylic and Nomex, already have flame-resistant features that make them common choices for FR clothing. Other fabrics, such as cotton, which are also naturally flame-resistant can be treated with additional chemicals to enhance these FR qualities.
There are four main types of FR clothing:
Natural FR fibers: These fibers have inherently flame-resistant characteristics that do not require additional chemicals.
Treated fibers: These synthetic fibers are treated with flame-retardant chemicals during the fiber-forming process. They are, therefore, eternally flame-resistant.
Treated fabrics: These fabrics are not naturally flame-resistant. They need additional protective features, or they are treated with flame-retardant chemicals.
Blends: These fibers are hybrids of natural FR fibers and treated fibers.
Washing FR Clothing
To protect the finish of FR clothing and ensure it continues to protect the wearer, it is essential to wash these garments as directed. The manufacturer will generally include specific washing instructions and precautions to follow for each FR garment.
Here are general guidelines to follow when washing FR clothing:
What Not to Do
There are some specific things to avoid when washing FR clothing:
Do not use bleach.
Do not use detergents that contain bleach.
Do not use detergents that contain animal fats, like natural soaps (anionic or tallow soap).
Do not use dryer sheets or fabric softeners as they are flammable.
Do not spray DEET directly onto FR fabrics because it is highly flammable.
Do not overdry the garments.
Do not use hard water because this can precipitate the buildup of magnesium and calcium salts.
Follow these steps when washing flame-resistant items in an industrial setting:
Wash FR garments separately from others.
Use soft water (less than 4.0 grains).
Use nonionic detergent formulas.
Wash garments with wash temperatures of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Flush garments that are heavily soiled with abrasive or particulate soils with 105-degree Fahrenheit water at the start of the cycle to reduce abrasion in the wash wheel.
Minimize redisposition and fabric abrasion with appropriate load sizes and wash formulas.
Sour garments to a pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
Use a short extract time for wrinkle prevention.
Condition at a setting of 165 degrees Fahrenheit and avoid overdrying, keeping the temperature in the fabric basket below 280 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cool down to 100 degrees Fahrenheit or less in conditioning for best appearance.
Use tunnel finishing (not to exceed a fabric temperature of 280 degrees Fahrenheit) for enhanced appearance.
Use a short cycle to press the garments. Do not exceed a fabric temperature of 280 degrees Fahrenheit under the press head.
At-Home Washing Tips
Follow these steps when washing flame-resistant items at home:
Turn garments inside out to minimize streaking from abrasion.
Fill the washer two-thirds full, using a high water level.
Use the normal or cotton cycle at your desired water temperature, up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use any standard laundry detergent that does not contain bleach or fabric softener.
Use soft or conditioned water and avoid hard water.
Presoak garments or use stain removal products prior to washing to remove contaminants and soils completely. Hot water can often be more effective.
Dry-clean garments if stains are not removed.
Do not over-dry the garments. Instead, press with an iron on permanent press/low setting.
Garments that have been exposed or contaminated with flammable substances will need to be immediately replaced with clean and non-contaminated FR clothing.
Industrial and home laundering can often remove soils, both flammable and others, but heavy greases and oily soils may require dry cleaning to remove completely. It is important to ensure these soils are removed completely to not compromise the integrity and function of the FR clothing.
Outsourcing Uniform Needs
Cleaning FR clothing can be simplified by taking advantage of Alsco’s services. Alsco can replace soiled and dirty FR uniforms with clean
ones, providing you with clean, functional FR uniforms for optimal safety and efficiency. We take the burden of specialized laundering off your plate.
Standard on Flame-Resistant Clothing for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Short-Duration Thermal Exposures From Fire. (June 2022). National Fire Protection Agency.
Flame-Resistant Clothing: Everything You Need to Know. (2021).Power.