Washing Work Clothes After Working with Pesticides

March 30, 2023
ICM News

Pesticide residues can be carried on your clothing even if you wear personal protective equipment (PPE) over your own work clothes. Therefore, it is important to properly clean your clothes after working with and around pesticides. Many pesticide labels provide limited instructions for cleaning work clothes. In situations where no instructions are provided, follow these guidelines for washing contaminated clothing. 

  • Wear gloves and long sleeves when handling pesticide-contaminated clothing to avoid skin exposure.
  • Discard any clothing that has had concentrated pesticide spilled on it. Research confirms that traces of pesticide remain on heavily contaminated clothing even after washing.  
  • Wash work clothing at the end of each workday. Waiting more than 24 hours reduces the effectiveness of the wash cycle to remove residues.
  • Do not wash pesticide-contaminated clothing with any other clothing. Pesticide residues can transfer from work clothing to household clothing during laundering.
  • Internal view of a washing machine, by nexusseven/stock.adobe.comLoad only a few items into the washing machine. The washer provides the best agitation and dilution when it is loaded to no more than 50 to 75 percent of its clothing capacity.
  • Use the maximum amount of detergent recommended by the machine’s manufacturer.
  • Use the highest water setting available, regardless of load size, to maximize dilution.
  • Select the hottest water settings available.
  • Use a pre-rinse/soak before initiating the wash cycle. Research shows this helps in removing pesticide residues.
  • Use an aggressive wash cycle that lasts at least 20 minutes. You may need to reset the wash cycle manually to achieve this with older or basic machines.
  • Use a high-speed spin. If this feature is not available, reset the machine manually to increase the spin time to further remove moisture and contaminants from the clothing.
  • Dry clothes using a machine on high heat or clothesline.
  • Run one additional empty cycle without clothing, using detergent and hot water, before using the washer for household laundry.

A downloadable publication, Laundering Pesticide-contaminated Work Clothes, provides more detailed information.

Photo credit: Internal view of a washing machine, by nexusseven/stock.adobe.com

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Integrated Crop Management News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on March 30, 2023. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.


Elizabeth Danielson Extension Specialist

Betsy Danielson is an extension specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in the Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP).