Bug Repellent, DEET, and Your FR Clothing

The weather is warming up, which means the concern over pesky insects is growing. You’ll want to stay protected from bugs, but more importantly, remain safe in your FR clothing. As we’ve covered in the past, Tyndale does not recommend applying insect repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) to flame resistant (FR) clothing under any circumstances.

It was found, through laboratory testing, that DEET applied to an FR shirt propagated flames and contributed substantially to body burn. DEET was found to mask the FR properties of the fabric and result in flash fires (1). If you have applied an insect repellent containing DEET to your clothing, it can be removed from garments by following the manufacturer’s home laundering instructions.

When choosing an insect repellent, look for one that not only repels, but kills ticks and mosquitoes. Always ensure that the repellent is non-flammable and that the repellent does not contain DEET, which will create a working hazard. The length of coverage is also important to consider, as reapplication can sometimes be overlooked during a busy work day. Refer to the directions of your chosen repellent in order to determine how frequently you need to reapply. Conditions that may call for additional repellent include perspiration, high humidity, or getting wet (2). It is important that your repellent provide the maximum protection against insects and other disease-carrying bugs.

Alternatives to DEET for Use with FRC

Knowing that DEET is unacceptable for use with FR clothing, we’ll explore a few alternatives that will keep you and your workers protected.

Permethrin is non-flammable and is specifically designed to bond with fabric for six weeks or longer. You will find this synthesized ingredient present in many insect repellents that do not contain DEET. Permethrin based repellents are effective at killing ticks and mosquitoes that come in contact with clothing treated with the bug repellent.

Permethrin is tested safe per ASTM F1506, Electrical Arc and Flammability Test, and ASTM 1958F-1958M-05, Electrical Arc Exposure method using manikins F, Federal Test Method H191 method 5903, flame resistance of clothing and vertical burn (3).

If you’re looking for an insect repellent that is safe for FR clothing, Rainbow Technology’s Tick & Mosquito Repellent is a strong consideration. Rainbow’s product contains permethrin as an active component, and does not contain DEET. This product is not recommended for use directly on your skin, however, only on your FR garments.

The most important spots on clothing to spray are cuffs, waistbands, boots, socks, and collars. To apply permethrin based repellents to clothing, spray each side of the fabric outdoors, just enough to moisten it. Allow the garment to dry for 2-4 hours before wearing it (4).

Read the labels and know what you’re spraying your FR clothing with before applying and reapply after each laundering. Working comfortably is important, but never compromise your personal safety.

For more information on the test methods discussed in this post, visit Tyndale’s FR Safety Library.

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