High-visibility gear is an essential safety tool in many industries, whether your team works in construction, roadwork, or transportation. One crucial consideration of high-visibility gear is that it maintains its visibility over time. A brightly colored vest is no good once it stops being brightly colored. Read on to learn how to properly maintain high-visibility workwear.
Check the Care Label
The first thing to do with high-visibility workwear is also the first thing you should do with any piece of clothing you’re planning to wash: check the care label. You’ve probably seen those small tags on shirts, hoodies, and pants that let you know the washing instructions—they may tell you to “machine wash cold” or “tumble dry.”
Do your best to follow whatever that little tag says. Following the instructions carefully will help prevent damage to the material and the reflective tape—damage that can reduce the effectiveness of the gear and compromise safety on the job.
Make sure you wash high-visibility workwear separately from other clothing. Otherwise, you may risk the color bleeding and damage to the reflective tape. Color bleeding is a big issue because the pigmentation of high-visibility gear is carefully selected to catch the eye. If that color changes too much, it may become muddled and more difficult to see, defeating the purpose of high-visibility gear!
Additionally, washing hi-vis workwear with other clothes may put the reflective tape in harm’s way. Reflective tape is somewhat delicate and can become torn if it’s washed alongside clothing with metal zippers or buttons. Even if the reflective tape doesn’t tear, the metal hardware on other clothes can cause abrasions that dull the reflective properties of the tape.
Choose Mild Detergents
While it’s true that some workwear may be put into harsh environments, the washing machine shouldn’t be one of them! By choosing mild or even specially designed detergents for high-visibility workwear, you can avoid damaging or changing the color of your gear.
Bleach, fabric softeners, and other chemicals can all change the look and effectiveness of hi-vis clothing. Look for gentle detergents with low alkaline content to help preserve the color and reflective properties of your garments.
Wash With Cold Water
The number one rule of high-visibility workwear maintenance is to check the care label. However, your gear’s label may come off at some point, or you may have never seen a label to begin with! When that’s the case, you should default to washing your workwear in cold water.
Cold water is ideal for laundry because it prevents shrinkage, and shrinkage is a surefire way to damage your reflective tape. If washed in warm water, the garment will shrink, but the reflective tape won’t, causing the tape to crumple. This reduces the effectiveness of the tape in the short term (as there is a reduced surface area for the tape to reflect) and in the long term (as the crumpled tape will weaken over time and crack off).
You can further protect your gear by using the delicate cycle on your washing machine to avoid excessive agitation.
As we said in the previous section, the instructions from the care tag take precedence, but if you’re without that information, air-drying your workwear is the safest way to go. The high heat of the dryer can cause damage to the reflective tape and may shrink the material, further harming the tape.
You can avoid this issue altogether by drying the garment on a clothesline or rack, but remember to avoid drying your workwear in direct sunlight. Sunlight acts like a less potent form of bleach—lightening the colors of your gear and reducing its effectiveness.
Check for Damage
Before you put on your high-visibility gear for the day, you should inspect it for damage. All it takes is a quick look at the exterior of the garment to see whether there are any rips or holes. You may not think that a tear or hole is going to cause you many problems, but these damages are more dangerous than you may expect.
Every issue is an opportunity for an accident to happen, and that’s something you want to avoid as much as possible. A few small holes and a slightly less visible garment could cause someone’s reaction time to be just a little slower than it needs to be to keep you safe. When high visibility gear is the difference between life and death, a quick inspection is worth it to make sure there are no issues.
Replace Damaged Workwear
If you notice that your workwear is damaged, faded, or no longer reflective, you should immediately replace it to ensure maximum visibility and safety on the job. Don’t mess around with your jobsite safety—especially when fixing the root issue is so simple.
Hi-Vis Workwear Cleaning Mistakes
Now that you’ve heard all these things you should do, let’s talk about a couple of things to avoid.
Poor storage of your high-visibility workwear can cause it to become wrinkled or distorted, reducing its effectiveness on the job. To avoid this mistake, keep your gear in a cool, dry place that’s out of direct sunlight. Make sure to hang your garment or fold it neatly—no tossing it onto the floor of your locker or closet!
Another common mistake is not washing your high-visibility gear frequently enough. Over time, dirt and stains will accumulate on the fabric, which reduces its effectiveness and puts you at risk. Make sure you wash your workwear after every use or at least once a week. Regular washing will get rid of grime and ensure everything remains as visible as possible.
Now that you know how to properly maintain your high-visibility workwear, be sure to follow these suggestions to keep your gear in good condition for years to come. However, all the best care tips in the world won’t protect your workwear forever. When the time comes, and you need to outfit your crew with new gear, don’t hesitate to come to HiVis Supply for all your hi-vis workwear needs.