Our Guide to PPE Fabric Care
Although workwear and personal protective equipment (PPE) has been essential in some lines of work for years to prevent accidental injury, the coronavirus pandemic has seen an unprecedented surge in the use of PPE to help control the spread of COVID-19. Many people opt to use reusable PPE over disposable items as an environmentally-friendly alternative. However, reusable PPE is only effective if properly cared for.
In this guide, we will talk you through how to best care for your reusable fabric PPE so that you and those around you can stay safe this winter.
Washing PPE fabric
All reusable PPE, be that boilersuits and jackets or reusable face masks, must be washed routinely to clean off dirt which can affect the performance of the material. Washing also removes pathogens, which could otherwise make your PPE a contaminant.
When washing PPE fabrics, regular soap and water is often the safest and most appropriateoption for those washing at home. In fact, the majority of items you can simply clean in the washing machine on a normal cycle. It is essential that you do not use bleach or harsh chemicals to clean your PPE, as this can degrade the fibres in the fabric and make it less effective, compromising the level of protection it offers to the wearer.
For this same reason, never overuse your PPE; even reusable protective items are not everlasting. For example, our face masks can be washed up to 20 times before the antimicrobial coating on the fabric starts to wear away. Therefore, don’t excessively wash PPE and always replace items once they have passed the recommended number of cycles.
Some fabrics may require specialist cleaning – check the label on your garment before washing to determine what is appropriate and safe.
How you dry PPE fabric is not as important as how you wash it; broadly speaking you can either leave it to air dry or use a tumble dryer. However, always check that your PPE is safe to go in the tumble dryer beforehand, as the fabric could shrink, causing the item to distort. The distortion changes the arrangement of the fibres in the fabric, which can also alter its effectiveness.
No matter which way you choose to dry your PPE, never reuse it until it is completely dry to the touch. Damp face masks in particular are less effective when wet and can be harder to breathe through.
Inspecting PPE fabric
Although some PPE is reusable, it will still need replacing at some point, so ensure you look out for usual signs of wear and tear.
Always check for loose seams and rips and be vigilant when checking for signs of damage. Never attempt to sew holes in any damaged PPE, as stitching through certain layers can damage the fabric’s integrity. Heavy soiling that will not come off in the wash is also a good indicator that it’s time your PPE was replaced.