Spin Cycle: 50 Wash Cycles with Fabric Softener on an AR/FR Garment

Tyndale’s Spin Cycle series explores uniform rental companies’ claims that arc-rated and flame resistant (AR / FR) apparel’s safety performance is reduced through home laundering. How true are these claims, if at all? We put them to the test.

Each episode subjects an AR / FR garment to a different laundering method and exposes the garment to an arc flash. Follow along as we separate fact from fiction.

Please note: Tyndale does not endorse the intentional use of bleach, oxidative bleach, or fabric softener when laundering AR / FR clothing, as it is prohibited by safety standards.

Welcome to the third installment of our Spin Cycle blog and video series! Join Tyndale’s Vice President of Technical, Scott Margolin, as he takes you through today’s test: determining whether using fabric softener during home laundering affects an AR / FR garment’s performance.

You may hear uniform rental companies say that bleach and oxidative bleach removes the flame resistance of AR / FR garments. Did you know they also warn against using fabric softener due to a perceived increased risk of garments catching fire?

This claim sounds logical as most fabric softeners are flammable so the concern becomes intentional deposition of a flammable contaminant on top of a garment.

But does that theory hold up in a real-world scenario? We separate fact from fiction in the video below.

Please note: Tyndale does not endorse the intentional use of bleach, oxidative bleach, or fabric softener when laundering AR / FR clothing, as it is prohibited by safety standards.

Does fabric softener affect AR / FR garment performance?

Let’s see if 50 wash cycles with fabric softener makes an AR / FR garment susceptible to critical damage in a full-scale arc flash test.

We started the test with a control garment – a brand new AR / FR garment that has never been exposed to fabric softener. The garment remained fully intact after the arc flash, with no afterflame, holes, or shrinkage present. The control garment performed as expected.

Next, we conducted the same arc flash on a garment we washed 50 times using standard amounts of fabric softener in each cycle. As the arc faded, the garment looked just like the control, with no afterflame, holes, or shrinkage present. Even in super slow motion, there is no afterflame once the arc is gone. In a side-by-side comparison, the tested garments appeared essentially identical in both cases.

Our test concludes that 50 wash cycles with fabric softener has no effect on the performance of an AR / FR garment in an arc flash.

Is fabric softener really a concern for AR / FR apparel?

At Tyndale, we consistently emphasize the importance of following the instructions on the garment label when laundering AR / FR clothing. It is essential to note that Tyndale and laundering instructions do not endorse the use of fabric softener. However, it’s important to explore what could potentially happen if AR / FR clothing is accidentally laundered with fabric softener at home.

Through our comprehensive testing, we debunked a common misconception surrounding claims made by uniform rental companies. Our findings reveal that even up to 50 cycles using fabric softener had no effect on either the flame resistance or the protection of the AR / FR garment in arc flash. Therefore, we can confidently state that the claims made by uniform rental companies are false.

In the next episode, we’ll explore if washing an AR / FR garment 100 times produces any negative effects to its performance.


Series: Spin Cycle

Some uniform rental companies use sales tactics to convince you that home laundering is unsafe. Such claims can make it seem like industrial laundering is the most advisable option, or even a requirement. Our Spin Cycle series separates fact from fiction through testing and video evidence. Access all episodes in this series, each focusing on the different claims rental companies make to try and steer you away from safe and economical home laundering.

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