DuPont Nomex FR Apparel Newsletter

A Guide to Laundering Considerations for FR Garments

When you purchase flame-resistant (FR) garments, you are buying the assurance of that protection over time, not just the garment itself. One of the key components to long-term protection assurance of FR garments is consistency of care, especially with regard to laundering. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) places this responsibility on the employer.

The need for the proper care and maintenance of FR personal protective equipment (PPE) and the employer’s responsibilities are addressed in OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926.95, effective on February 13, 2008.

Although there has been some confusion in the industry as to the extent of responsibilities the standard places on the employer, an interpretation of the standard by OSHA addressing a question with respect to an employer’s specific requirements under the standard provides clarification about the use of home laundering. The bottom line is that even when home laundering is chosen for the FR garment program, OSHA places the responsibility of oversight and proper PPE care on the employer.

Effects of Laundering

The decision of whether or not to home launder FR garments should be part of your required overall hazard analysis. The hazard analysis should include the nature of the hazard, the soils and any chemicals present in the workplace. Requirements may exist that require work apparel to be cleaned professionally due to the risk of contamination of the home or wash water caused by the garment’s exposure to on-the-job hazardous substances.

As an employer, or wearer, there are several standards that addresdigitalData.proper care, maintenance, and laundering of FR PPE, including: NFPA 2113, ASTM F2757 and ASTM F1449.

How different technologies react to laundering
The flame-resistant properties of FR garments are achieved in different ways through the use of flame-resistant fiber and flame-retardant fabric technologies. Inherently based flame-resistant fabrics, such as DuPont™ Nomex®, can have advantages over post-treated, flame-retardant fabrics.

Nomex® Retains FR Properties for up to 200 Washes

One way FR properties of chemically post-treated cotton fabrics and garments can be compromised is with the use of chlorine bleach. Repeated use of chlorine containing bleaches can irrevocably damage the FR properties of the chemical treatment, rendering the cotton-based fabric flammable again. In addition, premature failure of the FR chemical treatment is possible over time from mechanical abrasion and repeated laundering.

There is also a phenomenon of ion-exchange in the presence of hard water and peroxide-based bleaches (commonly referred to as oxygen or “oxy” bleaches), which can diminish the protective properties of FR treated cotton garments. These oxygen bleaches do not contain chlorine and the end user may incorrectly believe that they are safe to use. However, that may not be the case.

Unlike FR treated cotton fabrics, Nomex® branded fibers and fabrics are not susceptible to loss of FR properties due to the use of chlorine bleach. Furthermore, there is no ion exchange effect with Nomex® fibers and fabrics. Because the FR protection is inherent to the fiber and fabric as produced, there is no need for chemical processes, coatings or additives that could diminish over time.

Nomex® branded fibers and fabrics are not susceptible to loss of FR properties

General laundering considerations
There are key considerations that should be kept in mind for all FR garments, regardless of FR technology. FR garments should always be washed separately or with other similar FR garments because fiber contamination from non-FR garments in the same wash load can deposit on the surface of the fabric of the FR garments.

Using hard water for laundering may combine with soap film to deposit flammable contaminants on the fabric. Fabric softeners or other additives, such as starch, should never be used with FR garments because they may coat fibers and negatively affect FR performance.

Nomex Continues to ProtectHeavy soil and contaminants, especially if greasy or petroleum based, are flammable and can reduce the FR performance of the garment unlesdigitalData.properly laundered and removed. If there is any evidence of flammable substances on the garment (including dust, solvents, solids, oils and other petroleum-based contaminants) that cannot be properly removed by cleaning, the garment should be discarded.

Nomex® continues to protect—wash after wash
When considering launderability and garment wear properties, it is important to have a garment made with fabric retaining a high percentage of original mechanical properties after multiple launderings. Nomex® branded fabrics have been tested to demonstrate excellent strength retention, wash fastness, and protective performance retention up to 200 industrial launderings.

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