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Do Protective Sleeves Shrink After Being Washed?

by Frank MacDonald on March 16, 2016

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Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, providing the right PPE for your workers can sometimes be a bit costly. As a Health and Safety Manager, your job is to ensure that your employees always feel safe while they’re in the workplace. So, what can you do to lower costs — especially when it comes to something as essential as PPE?

As we recently mentioned in one of our other blog posts a few weeks back, there are many ways to alter the life span of your work gloves and protective sleeves and, as a result, save money in the process. Though it might sound a bit obvious, a fantastic way to ensure that your PPE lasts longer is to establish a laundering program for your work gloves and sleeves in your workplace. However, during the Q&A section of our webinar about cut-resistant sleeves with DuPont™ Kevlar®’s Alex Blair a few weeks back, we realized that there might be a few misconceptions floating around about PPE laundering that might be preventing Safety Managers from saving money. We discovered that many Health and Safety Managers fear that washing gloves and protective sleeves could make them shrink and result in their employees not wanting to wear them.


It’s a terrifying thought, isn’t it? However, you’ll be happy to know that this isn’t necessarily true! To make sure that you’ve got the correct information, we wanted to clear the air.

When asked, “Will sleeves shrink after being washed?” during our recent webinar, here’s what Alex Blair and Robert Gheesling (one of our wonderful Territory Managers) had to say on the topic.

Alex: “It depends on the fiber combination. If it’s a 100% Kevlar® sleeve, normally you’ll have minimal shrinkage. Much of it depends on the laundry process and who’s laundering the product, and what type of heat and process they’re using in the laundry. Once you start integrating different types of fibers – including polyester, nylon – you will begin to see some type of shrinkage, but if it’s got a higher concentration of synthetic fiber like Kevlar®, you’re going to see minimal shrinkage.”

Robert: “One of the things I’ll add to that will be a lot of the shrinkage comes from the laundering itself not being properly done. If you look at pretty much all of your gloves from all of the major manufacturers, now that everybody is mentioning the fact that keeping the washing temperatures at 120◦F or less. It’s that added heat in the drying process that’s your enemy for shrinkage, so, make sure that whoever’s going to be doing the laundering, they understand how to properly do PPE – you can’t just take gloves and sleeves and throw them in with uniforms and expect them to come out all nice and perfect.”


So there you have it, straight from the experts: it’s not the actual laundering process that can cause PPE to shrink. However, an important takeaway is there is a chance that the performance of the gloves and sleeves could be negatively affected if they’re
a.) washed incorrectly
b.) haphazardly thrown into the wash with other items, or
c.) if the temperature of washing machine and/or dryer is way too high.

In a nutshell: work gloves and sleeves need to be washed with other, similar items at the proper temperature. And, if you take the time to follow proper PPE laundering procedures, there’s no reason for you not to take advantage of this great, cost-saving solution: not only will your employees appreciate wearing fresh-smelling gloves and sleeves, but you won’t have to replace their PPE nearly as often — meaning that you’ll save tons of money on PPE costs in the long run. (And, since no one likes wearing a stinky glove or sleeve, it’s a win-win for everyone, really!)

Not sure if you’ve been washing your gloves and sleeves properly? Since there are different conventions depending on the material of the gloves or sleeves your washing and best practices you should be following in order to extend the life of your gear, we’ve compiled a brief, easy-to-follow Laundering Guide for you. Click the blue button to find out more.

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Happy washing!

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