California regulations require that an employer provide clean work clothing for every employee who works with Category 1 or Category 2 pesticides (those with the signal words DANGER or WARNING on the label). The employer is also responsible for the laundering of clothing worn by pesticide handlers, and should inform the person doing the laundry that the clothing may be contaminated and must be laundered separately.

If you handle or apply pesticides and your work clothing is to be washed at home, a few safety measures should be kept in mind. At the end of the work day, you can take several steps to reduce further skin exposure to the chemicals. They will also ensure that your family will not be exposed to the hazardous chemicals you might have come in contact with. These steps are:

  • Take off contaminated clothing at the work site and put them in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Immediately take a shower with lots of soap and water. Put on clean clothes.
  • Until you wash your contaminated clothes, keep them in the plastic bag outside the house where children cannot reach them.
  • Do not attempt to launder clothes that are heavily saturated with pesticides. Call your Ag. County Commissioner or the local waste removal office for advice on how to properly dispose of them.

When washing work clothing that may be contaminated with pesticides, follow these safety measures:
    1. Wash the contaminated clothes separately from the family laundry.

    2. Do not handle clothing with your bare hands. Wear rubber gloves or shake them from the plastic bag directly into the washer.

    3. Pre-soak the clothes to dilute and make it easier to remove the pesticides.

    4. Use full water level, hot water set-ting, and the longest water cycle. Also use a heavy duty liquid detergent.

    5.After washing, remove the clothing and run the machine through another complete cycle using hot water and detergent. This will prevent contamination of other clothes with pesticide residues that might have stayed in the machine.

    6. Hang the clothes outdoors on a clothesline. Sunlight helps break down any remaining pesticide residues on the clothes and you avoid contaminating the drying machine.

    When a dryer is used, run it until the clothes are completely dry. After drying, run it (empty) for about ten more minutes.

Some people might think the steps recommended will cost extra money, time, and effort. These may be added costs, but following them helps ensure your family's health and your own. Follow these safety rules!

Safety and Awareness Training for Agricultural Workers
UC Agricultural Health and Safety Center
and Agricultural Promotion System
NIOSH Cooperative Agreements
U05/CCU906055 and 906055-01
Department of Applied Behavioral Sciences
University of California, Davis, CA 95616

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More