Even the most durable safety equipment doesn’t last forever. Nearly all safety gear needs to be periodically replaced to ensure that it’s still able to fulfill its functions. Your favorite safety vest with pockets might have served you well, but, if it’s no longer safe to wear, it’s time to say goodbye.
That said, you never want to throw away a useful piece of high visibility gear before it’s served its full lifespan. So, how often should you replace your high visibility clothing? The answer depends on how you take care of your high visibility gear and the garment’s care specifications. Use this guide to help determine how often you should replace high visibility clothing for maximum safety on the job.
Your high vis gear can get pretty dirty after a long day on a tough job.
Signs You Should Replace Your High Visibility Clothing
In general, if a piece of high visibility gear has been in regular use for at least six months, you should inspect it for signs of wear and tear. Make sure you know the telltale signs to look for. If any of the following applies to your safety gear, it may no longer meet ANSI visibility standards, and it’s probably time to replace it:
- Your garment’s fluorescent fabric has faded and/or the color has become dull.
- Your garment’s reflective strip has become damaged or worn.
- Your garment has become excessively dirty and the dirt won’t come out.
- Your garment has rips or tears in it.
- Your garment is no longer comfortable to wear for extended periods.
It may not be easy to tell if fluorescent fabric has faded when viewing it in normal indoor lighting. If you work outdoors, especially at night, take your high-vis gear outside in conditions similar to those you work in. If it’s not easily visible from a distance, it’s probably time for a replacement. You can also try comparing your gear to a coworker who has new high-vis gear.
Storing and Cleaning High Visibility Clothing
Your high visibility gear will last a lot longer if you take the time to store and clean it the right way. Here are some tips to help keep your safety gear in good shape:
- Store your hi vis gear away from sunlight whenever possible, as sunlight makes the colors fade more quickly. If you’ve been putting your safety vest in the backseat of your truck for work the next day, try to find an alternate place to keep it. (That’s not to say most people haven’t done it!)
- Clean your hi vis gear thoroughly after a day at work, especially if it got dirty. You don’t have to put it in the laundry every time; in fact, it’s usually better to wipe your gear down if it’s not dirty enough to need a full wash.
- Don’t crush or squish your gear when storing it. This puts extra stress on the clothing fibers and makes your garment break down faster. Hanging your gear on a hanger is usually the most preferable option.
A clean and crisp high vis garment is always your best bet for staying safe and staying seen on the job.
Can I Put My High Visibility Clothing in the Laundry?
To find out whether you can machine wash your hi vis gear, consult the care instructions that came with your gear. Your care label will tell you about key garment care facts like whether your gear can be machine washed, machine dried, dry cleaned, or bleached. Failing to follow these rules can greatly diminish the performance of your high visibility clothing.
Care instructions will also usually give you information on which specific wash temperatures to use when cleaning your high visibility clothing. Take a look at your washing machine’s manual to learn about the exact wash temperatures that your machine uses.
Some high visibility clothing will have a maximum number of wash cycles listed on its care instructions. After a certain number of wash cycles, the visibility features on your garment may start to become less effective. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to throw it away, but you should be aware of the fact that your garment is coming to the end of its life cycle.