High Visibility Clothing Materials Explained
Many workers such as landscapers, construction workers, truck drivers, and the like, require cool, comfortable, and lightweight High Visibility Clothing that also meets ANSI (American National Safety Institute) visibility guidelines. Although safety vests are a great option, they add an additional layer while ANSI Class 2 T-Shirts or ANSI Class 3 T-Shirts worn alone will help keep the wearer’s temperature down while maintaining the required ANSI Class standards. Being comfortable and safe while working makes all the difference, here’s the deal on materials used in manufacturing High Visibility T Shirts…
High Visibility Clothing Materials:
100% Cotton – Sorry, at the time of this post there are no “100% Cotton High Visibility T-Shirts” that meet ANSI visibility standards, and here is why. After only a few washes, the vibrant dyes used in 100% Cotton “Enhanced Visibility” T-Shirts will wash out of the fabric, significantly reducing the required vibrancy of the color set forth by ANSI requirements. Any amount of reflective tape used on a brightly colored or “Enhanced Visibility” cotton T shirt is not going to make it acceptable under ANSI standards. This is because in order for a class 2 or class 3 T-shirt to meet ANSI requirements it must be able to maintain its vibrancy for a minimum number of washings. This is why 100% cotton enhanced visibility clothing will not meet ANSI class visibility requirements. Enhanced visibility 100% cotton T-Shirts are fine for work locations that do not require ANSI class visibility.
100% Polyester – Polyester can have fluorescent colors infused directly into the polyester fiber itself making it much less likely to fade over numerous washings and day to day use. This is why polyester is highly utilized in the high visibility clothing industry. In some cases Polyester is not as breathable as cotton – although new manufacturing processes have given polyester high visibility clothing the ability to wick moisture away from the body by creating an evaporative action thereby not holding in moisture. In contrast, cotton clothing absorbs moisture and is more likely to hold it, especially under humid conditions. The improved “Wicking” properties of this new process for polyester high visibility clothing are relatively new to the high visibility market.
Polyester-Cotton Blend (Poly-Cotton) – Before the more lightweight and breathable options for Polyester were discovered, Poly-Cotton blends have been one of the most common fabrics used in high visibility clothing. The more well known “50/50” Poly-Cotton blended high visibility fabric offers the comfort and of cotton (when dry) along with the durability and color retention of the Polyester fabric. Due to the cotton content however, this clothing may not be as effective for wicking away moisture as wicking polyester alone. The cotton content can make it more susceptible to holding moisture under more humid conditions.
Polyester Mesh – This widely used and highly breathable mesh fabric is popular, especially for workers in warmer regions, mostly due to its breathability and light weight characteristics. Mesh high visibility clothing provides exactly what one would think, tiny holes throughout the garment. Because of the inherent lightweight properties of polyester mesh material, high visibility clothing made from mesh will not withstand extreme wear or numerous washes. It also, depending on working conditions, may create more potential for a snag hazard than a solid woven material such as solid polyester. The Polyester mesh used in the manufacturing process of High Visibility T-Shirts is a much heavier and finer mesh than that which is used in the manufacture of many Mesh Safety Vests.
Wicking Polyester – Wicking Polyester is a great option for lightweight, durable, and breathable ANSI Class High Visibility T-Shirts. The fabric has “moisture wicking” technology which keeps the wearer cooler by literally removing sweat through an evaporation effect. High visibility T shirts made from Wicking Polyester are also flexible, durable and stand up to significant laundering while retaining the high visibility standards and high performance evaporative qualities. The difference between Polyester Wicking, Spun Polyester Wicking, and Birdseye Wicking comes down to the simple touch and feel of the fabric itself, leaving the choice between the three types of Polyester up to the wearer’s own personal preference.
When purchasing a high visibility t-shirt, only the person wearing it will know which product will work best to fit their specific needs. Persons requiring High Visibility Clothing colder climates may prefer a heavier fabric while other wearers appreciate the breathability of a more lightweight material.
No matter your needs are it’s best to be familiar with which ANSI Class standards you are required to meet at your particular job site. Also consider the maximum number of washes your garment is rated for and pay attention to the specific care instructions recommended to lengthen the life of your garment and maintain ANSI Visibility requirements for color fastness. Additionally, reflective tape can only be washed so many times before its effectiveness is degraded to a point where it will no longer meet ANSI reflectivity requirements.
By law, the ANSI rating, material, manufacturer, maximum number of washings and laundering instructions of all high visibility clothing is clearly stated on the tag along with ANSI rating and country of manufacture.