Flame resistant vs. Fire retardant - What is the difference between flame resistant clothing and fire retardant clothing?
Flame resistant materials and clothing will not melt or drip when exposed directly to flames or extreme heat. In order to be classified as flame resistant a fabric must self-extinguish in 2 seconds or less after exposure to direct flame. The official test method to determine whether a fabric is flame resistant or not is ASTM D6413, aka the vertical flame test. Flame resistant fabrics gain their self-extinguishing properties either from the use of inherently flame resistant fibers or flame resistant treatments.
Flame retardant materials stop or slow the process of catching fire or reduce its intensity. These fabrics or clothing can be made from any material but must be treated with a special chemical to qualify as flame retardant. Fabrics used to make this clothing are not made with non-flammable fibers.
What makes FR clothing flame resistant?
Flame resistant refers to the article of FR clothing that is made to self-extinguish when the flame source is removed from the article of clothing.
FR clothing is manufactured with fabrics that have unique properties that stop the clothing from igniting, melting or dripping when exposed to an open flame, which reduces burn injuries to its wearers.
How to wash FR clothing?
- Machine wash at the recommended temperature
- Dry at the recommended temperature setting
- Determine if detergent can be used when washing FR clothing
- If detergent is recommended to wash FR clothing, check what type
- Determine if your article of FR clothing can be dry cleaned
- Refer to see if your FR clothing can be ironed
- Check tag to see which colors FR clothing can be washed with
- Determine if FR clothing can or should be dried in sunlight
- Do NOT use chlorine bleach or detergents containing bleach
- Do NOT use hydrogen peroxide
- Do NOT use fabric softeners
- Tumble dry on low or hang dry when possible
- Always read tag for specific instructions before washing FR clothing or PPE
National Safety Apparel manufactures flame resistant clothing from several different types of fabrics. Each brand and fabric has specific instructions for how to care for FR clothing.
Visit our Product Care page to see specific instructions for FR clothing including balaclavas, base layers, work shirts, coveralls, outerwear and more.
If you have further questions on washing your flame resistant clothing, you can always ask a tech at National Safety Apparel, or reach out to a customer service representative, or a regional sales manager.
How do I wash my FR rain gear?
- Wash warm at a max temperature of 120F/50C
- Wash using mild detergent
- Wash separately from other garments
- Remove oil based stains using Dawn Dish Liquid (Hyrdrolite FR & Targo FR only)
- Wash using warm, soapy water and rinse with plain water (Arc H20 FR gear)
- Rinse 4 times to remove all soil and detergent residue
- Completely rinse before drying
- Always read the label and launder per instructions on the garment label
- Do NOT use bleach or chlorine
- Do NOT use hydrogen peroxide
- Do NOT use fabric softeners
How to dry your FR gain gear
- Do NOT dry clean
- Turn garment inside out before drying
- Tumble dry on permanent press – medium heat (Hydrolite & Targo only)
- Arc H20 – Air dry ONLY
National Safety Apparel’s line of FR rain gear includes Targo FR, Hydrolite FR™, and Arc H20™ that protects against arc flash and flash fire hazards as well as providing hi-vis safety outdoors in foul weather.
All of those properties are important to protect when washing your FR rain gear and following these laundering care guidelines will help you wash your FR rainwear at home safely.
Visit our Product Care page to see specific instructions for washing and drying FR rainwear and other product care.
Arc Flash FAQS
What is arc flash PPE?
Arc rated personal protective equipment is designed to protect wearers from burn injuries that may be caused by an arc flash. Arc flash PPE and arc-rated clothing is tested by being exposed to an arc flash and is assigned an arc-rated, or its ATPV (article thermal performance value) based on this test. Arc flash PPE is then sorted into four CAT Levels per NFPA 70E (2018), 1-through-4 with two and four being the most common. Arc flash PPE can include anything from a shirt to jackets, coveralls, and hoods.
Arc flash PPE is meant to protect against burns caused by arc flashes. Arc rated gear won’t ignite, melt or drip and won’t contribute to additional injuries caused by the arc blast. All arc rated PPE is flame resistant, but not all FR clothing is arc-rated, which is why arc flash PPE is required to be worn when there is a risk of an arc flash and not just flame resistant clothing.
What is an arc flash suit?
An arc flash suit is the last line of defense for full body protection in an arc flash incident. Full arc flash suits and kits usually include a full coat and bib overalls, an arc flash hood or faceshield as well as voltage rated gloves. Arc flash suits can vary in arc thermal performance value (ATPV), which measures the incident energy that results in a 50% probability of a 2nd degree burn. Arc rated clothing, including suits, are given ratings based on the incident energy it can protect against, which is measured in calories/cm2 or cal/cm2.
Once arc flash suits are tested to meet standards such as NFPA 70E and CSA Z462, they are given an arc rating and sorted into PPE CAT levels from 1-to-4 based on incident energy analysis. CAT level 2 and 4 are the most common.
What is NFPA 70E?
NFPA 70E is a standard created by the National Fire Protection Association that covers electrical safety requirements in the work place as safeguards to job functions that expose workers to electrical risks. Those risks include arc flash hazards, electrical shock and high-voltage hazards. NFPA 70E covers procedures to accurately assess shock protection, arc flash incident energy ratings, lockout-tagout procedures and personal protective equipment standards.
NFPA 70E requirements for safe work practices to protect personnel by reducing exposure to major electrical hazards. Originally developed at OSHA's request, NFPA 70E helps companies and employees avoid workplace injuries and fatalities due to shock, electrocution, arc flash, and arc blast, and assists in complying with OSHA 1910 Subpart S and OSHA 1926 Subpart K.
National Safety Apparel manufactures arc flash PPE that is NFPA 70E compliant that receives arc ratings by tests specific to the type of garment: ASTM F1506 (clothing), ASTM F1891 (rainwear), ASTM F2187 (hoods) and ASTM F2672 (arc flash blankets).
For more information on NFPA 70E and how it relates to arc flash and personal protective equipment, visit our blog.
How to wash arc flash clothing
Arc flash clothing such as arc flash coats and bibs or coveralls should be machine washed in warm water. The temperature washed in will vary by type of garment. You should only use mild detergent when washing arc flash clothing. Always check the label of your arc flash clothing for proper laundering instructions.
When washing arc flash clothing, you should NEVER use:
- Chlorine bleach or detergent containing bleach
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Fabric softeners or starch
- Do not line-dry in sunlight
Visit our Product Care page to learn more about arc flash PPE cleaning instructions.
What is hi-vis?
Hi-vis is a term for high visibility often referring to clothing that has reflective properties and is made up of fluorescent materials and colors so it is easily noticeable from any background. Hi-vis clothing is usually required to be worn by workers in construction, on roadways and other industrial industries to avoid incidents that involve behind struck by a vehicle or piece of motorized equipment. You may see it referred to as hi-viz or high visibility.
What is the difference between Class 2 and Class 3 safety vest?
Class safety vests are for workers on jobs in heavier traffic where driver visibility is poor due to weather. A minimum 201 square inches of reflective tape 2 inches in diameter is required for a Class 2 safety vest. Reflective strips are over shoulders and round in the middle with horizontal stripes. Class 3 vests are for high traffic incidents and often first or emergency responders. When work is involved around traffic over 50 miles an hour, workers need a Class 3 safety vest with a minimum of 310 square inches of reflective tape that is 2 inches thick. Class 3 safety vests also provide more arm and leg visibility coverage. Know what class of safety clothing you need for work by checking our blog, ANSI 107 simplified.