There are many different workwear options when it comes to apparel fabric. 100% cotton is still the king, but it is slowly losing market share to other fabrics such as synthetics, and blends. So, if you work around hot items such as power equipment, open flames, or welders,
What choice is best for you?
Choice 1. Cotton
Cotton is the preferred choice of the welding industry. Welders frequently have hot sparks and pieces of hot metal land on them. Most of the time the sparks simply burn out, or the metal cools before the cotton catches fire.
Cotton WILL burn, however, it takes some effort, and once ignited it burns relatively slow. So, even if it does catch on fire, it doesn’t spread very quickly, and is easy to extinguish.
Choice 2. Polyester
Polyester is actually harder to ignite, and has a self extinguishing characteristic. Although it doesn’t readily ignite, it does melt very easily. Melted polyester will stick to your skin, and is almost impossible to remove before thermal injuries occur. For example, if you brush against a hot muffler, a cotton shirt will likely suffer very minimal or no damage, while a polyester shirt may immediately begin to melt.
Bear in mind that most “moisture wicking” shirts are made of 100% polyester. While they may be cooler and more comfortable, they may not be safe for certain types of work.
Choice 3 Blended Fabrics
Blended fabrics have the best of both worlds… they melt, AND burn!
The cotton fabric will ignite, and the synthetic fabric will melt. If a blended shirt catches fire, the cotton burns up, while melted (and possibly burning) polyester drips down. A blended shirt fire is also much more intense compared to a 100% cotton shirt.
Cotton is the way to go for workwear shirts
The conclusion here is that for most folks who are exposed to hot equipment, 100% cotton is the way to go. If you are regularly exposed to very hot items, be sure to weigh the safety issues before making a decision on what fabric you want for your next uniform shirts.