If fabrics have been incorrectly laundered, calcium or magnesium silicate/soap deposits will build up and interfere with the fabric's ability to retard flame and heat. The only way to remove it is with a commercial laundering and the use of an acid rinse, followed by alkaline neutralization. Not something you're going to do in Mama's laundry room.

Here's another one. Chlorine bleaches should not be used on FR Cottons or Proban as they chemically weaken the polymer. If a bleaching treatment is necessary, fabrics should be soaked in diluted cold hydrogen peroxide.

What about stains? Stains can be removed by pre-soaking using a biologically active detergent. However, when you wash it you should be doing so at a temperature of 60 degrees. Once you're finished the washing, you must completely remove excess detergent and other washing residue by rinsing thoroughly.

Proban-finished fabrics can also be dry cleaned, although a wet wash is recommended at intervals to prevent the gradual build up of deposits. A fresh solvent in the final rinse is also good to prevent the re-deposition of dirt removed during dry cleaning. Again, that all adds up to one thing: If you're interested in tackling the laundering of Proban or similar fabrics yourself, consult the manufacturer for specific instructions on how to get the best results.

Although laundering FR cottons such as Proban can be trickier because they are chemically treated materials, Nomex and CarbonX are a bit more straight forward. But before we get into that, understand that both Nomex and CarbonX are man-made engineered products.

Racing gear manufactured from Nomex is inherently flame-resistant, which means its resistance to flame is built into the fiber. It will not sustain combustion in air or melt when exposed to flame. Because Nomex carbonizes and becomes thicker when exposed to intense heat, it forms a protective barrier between the heat source and the skin. This unique reaction to intense heat provides valuable escape time when flash fires occur and protects drivers/crewmembers against them.

Like Nomex, CarbonX fabrics are based on patented blends of high-performance fibers that will not ignite, burn, char, shrink, or significantly decompose when exposed to intense flame, molten metal, arc flash, or high heat. CarbonX is the brand name behind the products produced by Chapman Thermal Products. In its raw form, CarbonX is a yarn created by spinning O-PAN (oxidized polyacrylonitrile) fiber with an Aramid strengthening fiber. The CarbonX yarn can then be converted into an array of fabrics ranging from woven fabrics, knitted fabrics, and non-woven felts.

Again, like Nomex, CarbonX yarns and fabrics will not burn when exposed to intense heat or flame. The actual fibers carbonize and then expand, eliminating any oxygen content within the fabric. Whether you choose CarbonX or Nomex, in order to maximize these fabrics' performance and protection, you need to properly care for them.

GForce Racing Gear's
Jeremy Curtis says that the company's Nomex suits are actually very easy to care for. "We recommend gentle machine washing in cold water and then hang the suit to dry," says Curtis. "Some people tell you to dry clean the suits, but without controlling the chemicals used in the dry cleaning process, we always say to machine wash to ensure preservation of the product."

Curtis makes an excellent point. If you choose dry cleaning, especially if you have a Proban or FR Cotton suit, the dry cleaner you choose should have experience in laundering fire-retardant fabrics. Simply put, you need to ask them if they have worked on these fabrics in the past. If they have, then great; if not, it's time to look for a new dry cleaner.