Firefighting is a dirty job, which is why keeping your gear clean is so important. Not only do firefighters pick up a lot of dirt and soot while responding to calls, but they also encounter potentially dangerous materials. These include toxic gases, smoke particulates and carcinogenic substances. If these elements are left to linger on pieces of PPE that are worn close to the skin, eyes, nose or mouth, it could lead to serious health problems.
This is a major part of the reason the National Fire Protection Association strongly recommends cleaning all protective clothing after it has been exposed to products of combustion, as well as performing at least two advanced cleanings per year. Read on to learn some firefighter PPE cleaning tips that could help reduce the risk to first responders and prolong the lifespan of your gear.
How to Keep Turnout Gear Clean
Washing turnout gear is a bit more complicated than doing laundry at home, and for good reason: This clothing is made from advanced materials that require specific cleaning methods. Many departments have special washing machines that use the proper water temperature, spin cycles and detergents to keep items in good condition. They also may employ drying cabinets that dry turnout gear quickly and evenly compared to hanging it on a line.
To help lighten the load, so to speak, here are some guidelines to follow when cleaning bunker gear:
- Check items before cleaning: Brushing down equipment or giving it a light rinse before laundering should help remove dry particles and excess soot. Any item that has come into contact with blood or other bodily fluids should be contained and isolated as soon as the situation allows.
- Separate linings: The outer shells of jackets should be washed together, and, likewise, the inner linings should be cleaned in a separate load. If the outer shells are especially dirty, they should be pre-soaked before washing according to the detergent supplier’s recommendations. Before putting these items in the machine, close all snaps or buttons on the shells and turn the linings inside-out.
- Use the right detergent: Using the correct cleaning solution helps remove dirt and contaminates and keep PPE safe. Bleach and other solvents that contain chlorine can eat away at Kevlar and other fibers used to make jackets and other bunker gear.
- Wash for the correct number of cycles: Washing machines used in fire stations should be calibrated properly to use the proper cycles for turnout gear cleaning. This means these machines should put PPE items through a wash that uses two rinses. Items that are excessively soiled may need to be put through a pre-wash to ensure they are cleaned as thoroughly as possible.
- Take care of accessories: Just as firefighters need to maintain the outer protective clothing, they also need to take care of accessories such as gloves, helmets and boots. For instance, gloves need to be washed by hand, never thrown into the washing machine. When cleaning helmets, the outer shell should be separated from the earflaps before cleaning. The earflaps can be washed with the outer shells of turnout gear, while the helmet exteriors should be hand-washed with a mild soap. Boots should be scrubbed in a mild detergent, rinsed and hung upside-down to dry.
- Avoid cross-contamination: It is important that PPE is cleaned as soon as possible following a call. First responders should avoid letting it sit in their living spaces or vehicles without washing it first. This is to ensure that potentially toxic elements do not spread to others.
Safety Is Essential
Creating a safe environment for firefighters means paying close attention to the cleanliness of their equipment before they need it again. As a leading manufacturer of high-end PPV fans, BlowHard is committed to creating safer environments for emergency personnel. To learn more about our full range of products, click here.