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Protective clothing coatings explained

Protective clothing coatings explained

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential in many lines of work – including industries such as construction, oil and gas, and pharmaceuticals – but the hazards a garment  needs to protect from can vary enormously. The coating applied to the fabric will determine in what environment and in which situations the garment is best suited for, and which hazards it offers protection against.

Here is a closer look at how the protective coatings on items of PPE work, and how you can maintain them to ensure they’re always offering effective protection against the hazards you face in the workplace.

Chemical resistant clothing

Chemical resistant clothing is essential for anyone who will be handling dangerous and toxic chemicals. Because all chemicals can react with compounds differently, the type of chemical resistant clothing you need depends on the specific chemicals you will be handling.

Types of fabrics that are chemical resistant include polyethylene, nylon, neoprene, and rubber. Commonly, good quality items of chemical-resistant clothing are made from one of these materials and then coated in PVC for added protection. This also lengthens the lifespan of the item thanks to the enhanced durability, and makes your PPE easier to clean.

Fire retardant clothing

To protect against fire and heat, PPE clothing items will be coated in a fire retardant spray made from a flame-resistant chemical. This can eventually wear off over time through washing and exposure to other elements, but you can care for your fire retardant clothing by treating the fabric regularly with the fire retardant spray. For the best protection, and for any professionals who require fire protection regularly at work, you should wear PPE made from a woven fibre which is already fire resistant. This should then be treated with a fire retardant coating for double protection.

Biological protection clothing

Clothing designed to protect from biological hazards needs to both protect the wearer and prevent the fabric from being degraded by microorganisms. Natural fibres have inherent antimicrobial properties, and more tightly woven textiles are needed as these won’t cling to heat or moisture as effectively, two things that bacteria need to thrive. The fabric will then be treated with an antimicrobial coating. Metal ions such as silver, zinc, and copper are all commonly used and their popularity has skyrocketed following the coronavirus outbreak and the sudden need for antimicrobial face masks to protect against the virus.

It is essential to remember that whichever type of hazards you need protecting from, the protective coating will wear off gradually over time. Always opt for clothing that is made from protective fibres, so you don’t solely rely on the coating to keep you safe.

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