Washing Contaminated Work Clothes

Contaminated work clothes should be washed or tossed. Only some can safely be washed at home. Others should be laundered at work, or deemed hazmat!

When you drag your dirty carcass home after work, you could be putting family and friends at risk. Your work clothes can spread small, but dangerous, amounts of toxic material in the domestic setting. Many substances are life threatening, so listen to this podcast as Dan Clark tells of the dangers.

Dan gives details on how workers in some industries should wash their work clothes separately from other laundry. Also, in some industries, the work clothes should never leave the workplace. In extreme cases, the work clothing should be treated as hazardous materials.


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Dan Clark: When workloads are covered with contaminants they need to be washed or thrown out.

Hi there, I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief. This is where we talk about health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites, a service of Creative Safety Supply. Save 10% off your entire order at creativesafetysupply.com with coupon code SAFETYBRIEF (no spaces!).

When contaminated clothing is worn home, it gets in a worker’s car, and then their house and potentially exposes others. Some contaminants, like lead and asbestos, are extremely dangerous.

A study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that contaminants carried home include asbestos, lead, mercury, arsenic allergens, pesticides, and so many more. Some can be safely washed at home, others cannot.

Washing_Contaminated_Work_Clothes-Creative_Safety_Supply-250x312WASHING CONTAMINATED WORK CLOTHES AT HOME

To keep friends and family free from pesticides and some other chemicals:

• Wash clothing after every shift

• Keep contaminated clothes separate from the other clothing

• Some clothing may need pre-washing with a hose outdoors

• Wash in a washing machine with hot water

• Hang to dry to avoid contaminating the dryer

• After running that load, run the washing machine on empty with hot water for an extra cycle to clean it.

By the way, beyond clothing, taking items home from work can be risky. Contaminants may be on old rags, metal drums, and scrap lumber. They could cause serious and fatal poisonings of family members, if you work in industries with such risks.


Now, let’s talk about the clothing so contaminated, it has to stay at work.

• Anything with lead, asbestos or blood-borne pathogens or infectious agents must be removed at work and washed by employers. And I don’t mean the boss, I mean someone qualified at the jobsite.

• Contaminated PPE should also be washed in the workplace. Businesses often contract with commercial laundries for these things.

• Some clothing may be so contaminated, such as footwear soaked with pesticide, it’s impossible to clean. Dispose of it as hazardous material.

• Companies must understand the hazards of the contaminants at their sites. Check safety data sheets for info about PPE and laundering.

That’s it for this episode on Washing Contaminated Work Clothes. Come back for more ways to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, a service of Creative Safety Supply. Save 10% off your entire order at creativesafetysupply.com with coupon code SAFETYBRIEF (no spaces!).


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