If you’re a full time welder, you know that your clothing and PPE never really lasts as long as you want it to. The welding jacket that you thought would last awhile is now full of holes and burn marks. You know that you’ll have to buy another when payday comes, and this gets annoying after awhile. This has happened to us on many occasions, and it’s just part of being a welder.
In recent years, FR clothing has become extremely popular for welders, and manufacturers have taken advantage of this by mass producing it. These flame retardant/flame resistant properties make clothing last longer, but it increases the price of the item (often by 2 to 3 times the price of a normal garment).
This has caused welders to consider if purchasing an FR piece of clothing is really worth it. The FR cotton jackets aren’t too expensive, but the FR overalls and jeans can get pretty spendy.
A lot of welders just plop down the cash because they know that the FR garments will last them awhile, but more frugal welders have found a way to turn a cotton work shirt into a DIY flame resistant garment.
This starching process has been around for a long time, and a lot of professional welders still prefer to do their own starching at home. It is economical, and will prevent your clothes from wearing out too fast.
How Does The Starch Help?
When you starch your clothes properly, it helps prevent slag, sparks, and spatter from penetrating your garments. This, in turn, will prevent you from getting skin burns. As you may have read in our other articles, most welding burns are 3rd degree burns due to the extreme heat produced by a welding arc.
The liquid starch acts as a natural flame resistor when ironed in properly, and will keep your pants and cotton jackets looking fresh and clean. Starching also prevents dirt and debris from accumulating on your clothes. This thin coating that repels dirt is especially helpful for lighter colored garments.
It is important to note that you should only starch welding clothes that are 100% cotton or denim. The liquid starch needs to be able to soak into the clothes, and synthetic garments won’t allow this. If you already splurged on an FR jacket or FR pants, you can also starch them to add an extra layer of protection, but this is not always necessary.
It should be noted that starch isn’t necessarily a safe equivalent to a full flame retardant garment. It will help with preventing clothing burns, but you should always use your own judgement when it comes to selecting proper clothing for the job. Higher welding amperages may call for fully leather jackets instead of cotton selections.
This starching method has been used by welders (especially on the pipeline) for decades. Laundromats do offer these services, but it is way more economical to do the starching yourself. If you’re consistently paying the laundromat to do your starching, we think you’d be better off investing in fully FR garments in the first place.
Wearing starched clothes does take some getting used to. They will become stiffer, and you may not like the feeling at first. However, your starched garment will loosen up over time. Using the starching process will (almost) always guarantee that your clothing purchases become more infrequent, which means more money left in your pocket.
How To Starch Your Welding Clothes
The starching process is relatively simple. You’ll need a spray bottle, Purex Sta-Flo starch, and an iron or a steam press. The video below by Austin Ross outlines this starching process very well.
First off, make sure that you wash and dry your garment as you normally would. It is not effective to starch clothes when they are dirty, and doing this will lead to subpar results. Once your garment is washed and dried, you can begin starching.
After adding your liquid starch to your spray bottle, hang your piece of clothing up on a hanger. Once you spray down your garment with the Sta-Flo, you’ll want to let it dry overnight. This allows the starch to settle into your garment and dry properly.
After completing this step, you can begin ironing your piece of clothing. Ironing takes longer than a steam pressing, but irons are a lot more affordable. Steam presses are beneficial because they cover more surface area in a shorter time period, but they aren’t always necessary.
Steam presses can cost between $100-$200, so if you’re going to buy one you’ll want to make sure that you’ll get some good use out of it.
The Sta-Flo starch comes in a large bottle, so you can get multiple refills for your separate spray bottle in a single starch purchase.
This old school process has been used for decades for clothing in general. Folks who aren’t welders use the starching process for khakis, denim, etc.
Although not every welder will find the starching process necessary, it is a good option to have. Once we started jumping into the high amperage welding game, we found it helpful for preserving our clothes.
As self employed welders, we have quite a few expenses – many of which involve equipment maintenance and purchases. We like to keep our clothing budget relatively low, which leaves room for other more important purchases. Starching is a great preventive measure, and we think every welder should at least give it a try. If you don’t like it, then you can continue wearing your garments with no maintenance involved.
Featured image credit : Purex Sta-Flo (Amazon Images)