The large majority of these items or approaches will be well-meaning, but as is often noted, a certain amount of zeal will be present to entice departments and individual firefighters to consider new ways that they can reduce their risks. We expect many claims at this year’s FDIC to revolve around contamination control and exposure reduction in the form of cleaning products and services.
Findings from this research have been coupled with several new approaches for cleaning turnout clothing and related items both on the foreground and at station. (Photo/Los Angeles County Fire Department) Because of the heightened focus on firefighter cancer and similar debilitating diseases from exposure to hazardous substances, we urge caution and due diligence in reviewing and considering the different options available for turnout cleaning.
Even the newer front-loading household machines simply do not provide the appropriate characteristics for cleaning turnout clothing, particularly when high-efficiency/low water utilization is now the practice with this type of equipment. Therefore, the ability to put a washer/extractor into a location takes a significant amount of planning and departments must consider all these details before making a purchase.
Turnout clothing cleaning requires specific detergents to ensure removal of contaminants and ordinary foreground soils, which can be quite varied in their composition. Many industrial wash chemicals are predicated on high alkalinity and subsequent pH adjustment by acidic sour solutions.
These chemicals should have demonstrated effectiveness in cleaning turnout gear without causing any deterioration of turnout clothing performance. While it is quite possible that these agents can work as intended, it is much more important to ask for specific research or studies that adequately document the use of these types of products on turnout clothing.
The larger concern for any cleaning agent is its ability to remove persistent contaminants often trapped in the set and lodged in the materials themselves. As with general detergents and cleaning agents, look for evidence that the product will not irreversibly affect turnout clothing performance.
Currently, both Internet Testing Services (ITS) and Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) verify ISPs with the listings of qualified organizations can be found at: However, verified ISPs still must demonstrate adherence to the current requirements of NFPA 1851 for cleaning turnout clothing.
Beyond that, it will depend on the capabilities of the ISP whether cleaning is provided for specialized hazardous materials exposures, or certain types of contaminants, such as asbestos or bed bugs. Whenever dealing with an ISP, is important to ask multiple questions about their capabilities and to ascertain whether they have experience in providing services for special cleaning circumstances.
In considering your cleaning options, be sure to fully investigate any equipment, products or services that you intend to use and ensure they are consistent with the requirements of NFPA 1851. ISPs that meet the respective requirements of NFPA 1851 can be verified by either It's or UL and can provide proof of that verification.
There is considerably more detail in defining the appropriate turnout clothing cleaning option that is right for your organization, but taking the right time to understand existing requirements, knowing your specific needs and questioning claims goes to the right approach for finding the correct solution. It passes all recommended testing for the outer shell, moisture barrier, and thermal liner.
Passed the recommended tests for outer shell, moisture barrier and thermal liner. The current situation with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has many of our customers seeking information regarding how to clean and disinfect their turnout gear and PPE.
Do not shake dirty laundry; this minimizes the possibility of dispersing virus through the air. Dirty laundry that has been in contact with an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.
If the turnout gear or station uniform is visibly contaminated by bodily fluid, it should be placed in a biohazard bag at the scene and washed following prescribed laundry procedures. For decontamination of non-disposable equipment, follow manufacturer and departmental standard operating procedures.
Vehicles used to transport persons suspected of having COVID-19 should be cleaned by staff wearing protective equipment, using a bleach solution as a disinfectant cleanser. Citrosqueeze ® is made for firefighters to remove oil, soot, grease, and other hydrocarbon contaminants from TurnoutGear & PPE.
This is to prevent any contaminants on the shell being transferred to the inner portions of the garment during the laundering process. It is also recommended that you turn the liner inside out prior to laundering to facilitate the drying of the inner layer.
For structural gear, we recommend a front loading washing machine, which does not have an agitator, and preferably one that is designated specifically for cleaning turnouts. If you must use a top loader, we suggest utilizing a laundry bag to protect the inside of the washing machine from the hooks and does (and to protect the hooks and does from the agitator of a washing machine when using a top load model).
The special fabrics that make up your turnouts contain inherent flame and heat resistance properties, which cannot be washed off or worn out. When machine washing, always prepare the clothing as directed, by separating removable liners and DVDs from outer shells and fastening all closure systems.
Of the two, detergents make the best cleansers because they are formulated to contain special agents that help prevent redeposition of soil. A soft bristle brush, such as a toothbrush, may be used to gently scrub the soiled area for approximately one to one and a half minutes.
An alternative method would be to pretreat garment by applying liquid detergent directly from the bottle onto the soiled area and proceed as with cleaners. However, if you are interested in a specific cleaning agent, we recommend that you contact the manufacturer of the cleaner being considered and make your own determination as to suitability.
Oil-based soils such as motor oil and tar can be removed with solvents such as “Var sol” prior to washing, says E.I. DuPont, the folks who produce the NOMEX® and KEVLAR® fibers used in the vast majority of turnout fabrics.
However, they do add the cautionary statement that the garment must be thoroughly washed and rinsed to ensure that all residual solvent is completely removed. The manufacturers of PBI fiber also recommend in their User Advisory that solvents such as Var sol may be used to remove stubborn stains such as tar, providing that the garments are well laundered and rinsed prior to actual use.
NOTE: NFPA 1851 instructs the user to not use solvents; however, based upon our experience, we believe Var sol to be the one exception to the rule. 3M, the manufacturers of both SCOTCHING™ and Triple Trim, recommends that the following guidelines be used for their product: (1) Damp wipe, using warm water not to exceed 105 °F, and mild detergent.
Liquid glutaraldehyde, available through commercial sources, will also provide high to intermediate levels of disinfectant activity. When decontamination is not possible, the garments should be discarded in accordance with local, state, and federal regulations.
Using a soft bristle scrub brush and a detergent (not soap), clean your garment by making circular motions with the brush, forming progressively larger circles until the entire surface has been washed. We recommend that you rinse the entire garment several times to avoid any possibility of soil detergent residue.
NFPA 1851 does require that machine laundering be used for advanced cleaning, unless specifically prohibited. We believe that these companies offer a valuable service, and we encourage our customers to directly contact any of these outside cleaning facilities to determine if they are able to meet the fire department needs.
Some possible questions to ask would be if they provide any warranties on their services, and whether they are able to give any guarantees concerning the effectiveness of their cleaning. GENT EX®, the producers of the aluminized outer shells used in the fire service today, point out that the outer side of the aluminized material offers a highly reflective surface, and it is extremely important to keep this surface clean so that it may perform at peak efficiency.
They recommend the following care and cleaning instructions for aluminized proximity outer shells: Clean by gently rubbing the surface with a soft cloth or sponge containing mild soap.
We do encourage every department to keep their clothing clean and to regularly inspect and repair as needed. Having dirt, soot, and other debris clinging to your gear represents a safety hazard.
Safely wash firefighting turnout gear and other PPE with this detergent that meets NFPA 1851, 2008 recommendations. This pH neutral wash solution has been carefully developed to ensure the safe cleaning of all firefighting turnout gear and other PPE.
Non-corrosive to metals pH neutral (6.5-7.5) Will not leave a residue Highly concentrated formula, cost-effective Will not damage/reduce reflectivity on reflective components (as verified by manufacturer) Can be used in all cleaning applications (machine or handwashing) Choose: one 1 gallon bottle, four 1 gallon bottles/case, 5 gallon pails or 32 oz.