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A textile industry report has concluded that washing workwear at home could render its protective qualities useless.

The study was commissioned by the European Textile Services Association (ETSA). Conducted by GfK, Germany's largest market research institute, it also found that most workwear used in the UK is laundered by employees.

About 92 per cent of UK respondents washed their own workwear. Polling opinion in Belgium, Germany and Poland too, the average was 80 per cent.

The damage caused by home washing was said to be largely a result of the temperatures being used. If not using the right level of heat, personal protective equipment (PPE) properties like high visibility, chemical resistance and fire retardancy can be stripped.

There is also the issue of the number of times an item of PPE is laundered.

Over time, the number of washing cycles an item of workwear is put through will damage it. In professional settings, this is closely monitored and action is taken as necessary.

Stain removal is also not thoroughly analysed under home washing conditions. The ETSA explained:

“[Employers] need to be aware that a much safer option is provided by professional textile service firms.”

The situation is worsened by the process failings of many employers too.

Just 47% of firms checked the condition of protective workwear according to study respondents, and then, only visually and occasionally.

The findings in the report have led the ETSA to tell employers to fully understand the impact that washing workwear at home can have on staff safety and their own liabilities.

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