How to Extend the Life of Your Workwear and PPE

Tips to keeping your uniforms and personal protective equipment lasting longer to avoid costly replacements.

How to Extend the Life of Your Workwear and PPE

  Wearing his workwear and personal protective equipment — uniform, gloves and safety glasses — licensed plumber Mark Lambert with L.D. Smith Plumbing in Indianapolis, Indiana, checks a drainpipe with a drain cleaning machine.

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As a modern skilled trade professional, you know that good performance workwear and personal protecting equipment is an investment. You wear these every day for hours on end and trust the workwear to protect you and offer the comfort and flexibility you need on the job. That’s why it’s important to take good care of your workwear and PPE to make sure they last a long time.

Your hard-earned money is better spent on tools and equipment to help you do your job than constantly buying new workwear and PPE that wear out quickly because of improper care. Whether you’re an electrician, a plumber, or in construction, performance workwear care should be taken just as seriously as your day-to-day work tools.

Here are a few steps that will help you get the most out of your PPE and workwear:

Check the Care Label and Manufacturer’s Instructions

Checking the care label and following the manufacturer’s instructions is a great way to extend the life of your workwear. It sounds simple, but it can make a big difference in prolonging how long clothing and PPE last. You don’t want to shorten the lifespan just because the dryer was too hot or you should have skipped the fabric softener.

Whether your everyday operations workwear is made of polyester blends, technical fleece or other performance fabrics, you must have a plan for maintaining the quality of your workwear. When it comes to using PPE, ensure you handle your gear with care and follow instructions.

Regularly Inspect Your Workwear and PPE for Damage

Another way to extend the life of your workwear is regularly inspecting for damage. If you find any cuts, abrasions or tears, they should be repaired immediately to prevent further wear and ensure safety on the job. Inspect all workwear, including pants, shirts, jackets and gloves, for holes that could cause injury if not addressed swiftly.

Gloves are particularly vulnerable because they can easily get punctured by small, sharp objects such as needles or nails. This isn’t always avoidable. A puncture may seem innocuous at first, but those little nicks will become larger over time and compromise protection.

Also, inspect your PPE for damage and replace any torn or broken items as soon as possible. PPE such as masks, goggles, and gloves can protect you from harmful substances or chemicals during a task. If these items are damaged in any way, it may compromise your safety.

Ensure Proper Cleaning of Your Workwear and PPE

You should also ensure proper cleaning of your workwear and PPE so that you can extend the life of your protective gear. This will help avoid odors, bacteria buildup, stains and damage caused by liquid, leading to costly replacement or repairs. The cleaning process you use will depend on various factors like fabric, type of dirt and temperature.

Here are a few common cleaning basics:

1. Wash clothing in cold or lukewarm water. Hot or boiling water can damage fabric or cause the color to fade.

2. As a plumber who spends time working in dirty or hazardous environments, remove any dirt, stains and grease before washing your workwear by scrubbing with soap and water.

3. You can also use pre-wash treatments to get rid of the tougher soil that is difficult to remove even after you have washed them multiple times.

4. Wash jeans only when they have a light coating of dirt.

5. Use detergent or soap designed for your type of fabric.

6. Don’t use bleach or fabric softeners on white garments.

7. Air dry instead of machine dry to help preserve elasticity and shape.

8. Don’t iron clothes while damp.

Use Appropriate Storage Solutions

It’s also important to use the appropriate storage solutions for your performance workwear and PPE. According to Barb Abrahms, CEO of PalmFlex, the rule here would be as follows: “For best results, store workwear at room temperature out of direct sunlight, ideally in its original packaging if you still have it.” This may seem like common sense, but many people neglect this important aspect, only exacerbating wear on their garments and expensive PPE.

Here are a few storage tips to follow:

1. Use hangers that have a hook at the top instead of clips or loops to store garments. This will protect the shoulders and other seams from wear and keep garments wrinkle-free for future use.

2. Use a garment bag or dry-cleaning bag to reduce exposure of your workwear in storage conditions that may not be ideal.

3. If you store clothing in small spaces such as under the bed, be sure they are laid flat and pressed neatly together to avoid causing undue wrinkles.

4. Store your PPE in a durable, sealable container that reduces the effects of excess light, humidity and heat.

5. Whenever possible (and especially for long-term storage), store your clothing and PPE in a cool, dry place to prevent mold growth from forming.

Rotate Your Workwear and PPE

It’s a good idea to keep a few sets of work clothes and PPE on hand. That way, you don’t have to wash them every day and you can rotate them regularly. This will help extend the lifespan.

Once one set of clothes has been worn for a day or two, exchange it with another. This way, they’ll have some time to relax and recover from wear and you won’t have to wash it literally every day. Ensure you have at least two or three pairs of work gloves, a couple of work pants and shirts, several pairs of safety boots or shoes, and hard hats and eye protection on hand.

Better Care Means a Longer Life

When you’re dealing with workwear clothes and protective gear that need to be replaced regularly, it can seem overwhelming. The cost of new workwear and PPE equipment is something that’s often overlooked. The fact is it can be expensive, and it can seem like there’s no end in sight to the replacement cycle. It doesn’t have to be that way, though.

The more time and money you put into better care, the longer your workwear and PPE will last. It makes sense to spend a little extra effort on the regular laundry so that clothes stay clean for as long as possible and PPE equipment remains in good condition. Taking these steps will make those costly replacements much less frequent.  

Jordan McDowell is a writer and content strategist. He specializes in technically oriented B2B and B2C content for a number of digital companies.



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