Fire retardant clothing is an essential safety requirement in settings and instances where there is a high probability of exposure to heat or fire, increasing the likelihood of fire-related incidents or injuries. 

While this clothing is highly beneficial for its users, it is only effective as long as it retains its fire retardant properties. If it is not effective anymore in protecting against fire, it must be replaced. Therefore, potential users need to know how long fire retardant clothing last. Continue reading this article to learn how long fire retardant clothing last, how you can determine its effectiveness, and how to fix it. 

What can impact the effectiveness of fire retardant clothing?

Fire retardant fabric is designed to withstand heat and prevent the spread of fire, implying that once the ignition source is removed, the fabric will self-extinguish. The fire retardant property is incorporated into the fabric through treatment with chemicals to make it burn slowly and self-extinguish when exposed to an open flame. When used in protective clothing, it allows you time to put out the fire before it spreads and causes more harm.

Just like any other clothing, fire retardant clothing can also suffer from wear and tear. However, the more important concern is its effectiveness against fire. There are multiple ways through which fire retardant clothing can lose its effectiveness. The most obvious reason would be the cloth getting burned. There is a common misconception that fire retardant clothing is fireproof. On the contrary, while fire retardant clothing stops the flames from overpowering the fabric, it means that once the clothing is exposed to fire, it has served its purpose and is of no use anymore. 

In the instance of a fire, even though the wearer may remain unharmed, the clothing may get burnt and torn up, and if the person were to wear that clothing again, it would not be effective in providing protection in case of exposure to fire again.

Besides being damaged by fire, fire retardant clothing can also suffer from rips and tears, rendering the garment ineffective. It is because the rips and tears in the fabric will expose the wearer’s skin in case they come in contact with an open flame, causing burn injuries.

There are other less obvious ways through which the clothing can lose its effectiveness too. For instance, if the clothing is soiled by any gas-related product, oil, or any solvent, it must be cleaned thoroughly as these elements are flammable and can cause the fabric to catch fire. However, if the garment is soaked in any of these flammable liquids, it cannot be fully cleaned and must be replaced. If the wearer of such garment is exposed to flame, they may be in grave danger of getting burnt.

Lastly, clothing suffers from wear and tear due to excessive use over time. Clothing is not designed to last forever, and there are no exceptions, particularly clothing used regularly or in hard working conditions. Hence, even if the fire retardant clothing is still resistant to fire, it must be replaced if it has reached its expiration date.

How long does fire retardant clothing last?

Now coming to the important question of how long does fire retardant clothing last. Given the factors mentioned in the previous section, it would be wrong to assume the question has a straightforward answer. 

The life of a fire retardant fabric depends on how roughly it is used and how often it is worn and cleaned. Generally, a fabric treated with fire retardant chemicals is considered good for at least a year. If the clothing is washed regularly, its chemicals may dissipate over time. However, if it is not washed frequently, it may last longer. 

Moreover, the material from which the clothing is made is also an important consideration. For instance, fire retardant clothing made from cotton will have a usage life of around one year. However, clothing formed from blended nylon and cotton can be used for a longer period. Depending on the blend percentage, the approximate usage time is between one and two and a half years. Similarly, the synthetic blended fabric can be used the longest, even up to four years, given it is not washed too frequently, does not have any rips or tears, and is used with care.

What to do if fire retardant clothing is no longer effective?

If fire retardant clothing is no longer effective in providing protection against fire, the best option is to replace it. However, if the article is still good for wearing, you can use it for other activities even if it is not suitable for wearing at work. If you have a readily available substitute, you can use it instead. 

However, if the clothing has suffered a small rip or tear, you can fix it by using a fire retardant patch, which will prolong its life and save you the hassle of buying a new set of clothing. However, the patch must be applied properly for it to be effective, and you must do the patchwork with fire retardant thread as the regular thread may catch fire.