Working in the oilfields is a nice, clean, stress-free job. Right? Okay, maybe not so much. If you’ve even spent one day working in the oilfields, you know how filthy it can get. Workers often end up with grease, oil, and dirt stains on their clothing.
Did you realize that proper maintenance and laundering of their clothing is actually important for keeping them safe? In this post, we’ll explain why it matters. We’ll also walk you through the steps on how to get oil out of flame-resistant (FR) clothing.
These workers are tough and don’t seem to complain about it too much. It’s just part of the job.
Grease and oil might be an unavoidable part of the job when working in the oilfields. But, just because you can expect to get it on your clothing, doesn’t mean you have to accept and ignore it. In fact, you really shouldn’t.
Because grease and oil are flammable contaminants. It can be deadly if workers have it on their clothing. They face an even greater risk of having their clothes catch on fire.
Workers in the oil and gas industry are mandated to wear FR clothing. It protects them from fire hazards. But if that clothing is covered in flammable contaminants, it’s not really doing them any good.
Flame-resistant clothing is designed to self-extinguish when exposed to flames and embers. There are different kinds of FR clothing, based on the fibers and fabrics that it’s made from. First, let’s take a closer look at the ways FR clothing is constructed. Then, we’ll get into maintaining and laundering this specialized clothing.
The Oil Workers Guide to Common FR Fabrics
There are four different types of flame-resistant fabrics. Each of them provides a different level of protection. Let’s review the FR fabrics most commonly found in the oil industry. .
Inherent FR Fibers
Inherently flame-resistant fibers have flame-resistant properties built directly into the fibers. They’re made from materials that have the natural ability to prevent the spread of fire when ignited.
Treated fibers on the other hand, are coated with a flame-retardant chemical during the fiber-formation process. They are not naturally flame-resistant. But, they become flame-resistant for the life of the garment, once the process is complete. The quality of treated fibers is very comparable to that of inherent fibers.
Treated fabrics include garments that have been treated with a flame-retardant chemical. These garments typically only retain their flame-resistant properties for a certain number of washes. They are not as high quality as inherent fibers and treated fibers. But, they are just as effective when used within the specified lifespan.
Some FR clothing consists of a blend between inherent and treated fibers. The lifespan of these garments varies. It depends on the specific blend used to construct the garment.
The various fabric types also have their own unique maintenance and care instructions. These instructions can vary based on the manufacturer. What’s does that mean for you? It means you must always check the label. And then, follow the specific recommendations for laundering and caring for your FR garments.
Best Practices for Laundering FR Clothing
Proper maintenance and laundering of FR clothing will vary based on the manufacturer. In general, they each follow the same guidelines but it’s vital to always be sure what the specific instructions are for your garments.
For instance, most recommend using only liquid laundry detergent. It’s also a good idea to avoid fatty soaps, fabric softeners, and bleach. These products can reduce the level of flame-resistance in the garments. They can also leave behind a flammable residue, which makes the wearer susceptible to flame hazards.
Check out our related post, How to Wash and Maintain FR Clothing to learn more.
So, how do you get oil out of FR clothing? The good news is, you might be able to take care of this at home. If the garment only has a few small stains, you probably don’t need to bring it in for industrial laundering service.
To get rid of tough oil stains, try pre-treating it before you throw it into the wash. Apply liquid detergent directly to the stain. Rub it in, and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Throw it into the wash, following the manufacturer's recommendations for laundering. Make sure to wash it in the hottest water recommended on the care label.
If this doesn’t remove the stain completely, you can repeat the steps above and try again. Or, you can bring it in to either the dry cleaner or an industrial laundering facility.
For more information on the safe laundering of FR clothing, check out the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards:
Guide for Industrial Laundering of Flame, Thermal and Arc Resistant Clothing
Guide of Home Laundering Care and Maintenance of Flame, Thermal, and Arc Resistant Clothing
Removing Oil Stains from FR Clothing
It’s important to remove grease and oil stains as quickly as possible. Immediate laundering increases the chances of successfully removing the entire stain.
Why is so important to remove the entire stain from FR clothing?
Flammable contaminants, such as oil, can burn independently and overwhelm the FR properties of the garment— even if it’s a garment made from inherently flame-resistant fibers. So if the clothing catches fire where there’s an oil stain, workers are at increased risk of an injury.
If the flammable contaminants are not completely removed, the garment may be compromised. Consider replacing the entire garment if this happens — especially on clothing that has multiple, permanent stains.
Manufacturers of FR clothing typically provide users with detailed laundering instructions. Some of them also give out helpful tips and tricks for ridding your garments of grease and oil stains.
Laundering Bulwark FR Clothing
Bulwark understands that there is a lot of confusion on how to properly maintain FR clothing. They provide users with specific laundering instructions for each of their different garments.
For example, Nomex and Nomex Blends are inherently flame-resistant. Therefore, these garments can be washed at home without fear of diminishing its FR properties. Products like Shout and Spray ‘N Wash are safe to use on these fabrics.
However, industrial laundering is the recommended method for clothing that is heavily covered in oil stains.
Laundering Carhartt FR Clothing
Carhartt also provides some helpful tips on laundering their clothing. They recommend industrial laundering for their canvas and duck garments. The main reason for this is that industrial laundering services have the ability to maintain the aesthetics and color-qualities of their black and navy garments. It’s safe to wash these garments in your home, but it could result in color-streaking.
For their knit shirts and accessories, Carhartt recommends washing them in cold water on the permanent-press cycle.
Conversely, their insulated outerwear should be washed in warm water.
Laundering National Safety Apparel FR Clothing
The National Safety Apparel guidelines are similar to that of Carhartt and Bulwark. They suggest you wash most of their clothing in warm water.
Putting Safety First
If you have any other questions on the proper care and maintenance of your FR clothing, give us a call. Our team can answer any of your questions and help keep your employees safe. We know how important it is to take care of your protective clothing and how quickly it can be overlooked. That’s why we’re here to help.