A question raised at several Private Pesticide Applicator workshops this year was how to best handle pesticide-contaminated clothing. Although waterproof suits and aprons are key pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to wear when handling, mixing, loading, or applying pesticides, conventional work clothing is the primary label-required PPE for many products. Proper handling of pesticide-contaminated clothing can minimize pesticide residues in the home and avoid human exposure.
It is important to note that research around how to best launder pesticide-contaminated work clothes was done in the 1980s and early 1990s, before high-efficiency/low water-use clothes washers came into wide use. On the plus side, there has been a significant decline in the use of pesticides formulated as oil-based emulsifiable concentrates, which are harder to clean, and an increase in water soluble formulated pesticides, which are easier to clean. The research was also conducted when phosphorus was in detergents (which is it now banned), and most recommendations have not been tested with some of the new “breathable” or synthetic fabrics. If you are concerned about pesticide residues remaining on clothing after one washing cycle, extending the wash and rinse cycle and/or running the clothes through two cycles may help, although no research has been done on this.
Heavily contaminated clothing, particularly clothing contaminated with a concentrated pesticide product, should be discarded.
The article “Laundering Clothing after Applying Pesticides” by Cheryl Alberts, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, help address questions around the proper laundering of pesticide-contaminated clothing with today’s pesticides and washing machines. A useful resource discussed in this article that covers current best practices for laundering clothing, is the recent publication “Laundering Pesticide-Contaminated Work Clothes”, co-authored by Dean Herzfeld, U of MN Pesticide Safety Education Coordinator (available at: http://z.umn.edu/pestcontclothing).