By: Emergency Technical Decon Team

As firefighters and fire chiefs, ensuring the cleanliness of turnout gear is of paramount importance. Not only does clean gear enhance safety and performance, but it also plays a crucial role in mitigating the risks associated with carcinogens and toxins present in firefighting environments. If you’re here, you may be wondering if you can machine wash turnout gear. In this blog, we will explore the significance of keeping turnout gear clean, discuss the three levels of cleaning along with best practices to follow when machine washing with water, and explore CO2 technology as an alternative and effective cleaning method.

Importance of Keeping Turnout Gear Clean

Clean turnout gear is vital for the well-being of firefighters, as it helps minimize exposure to hazardous substances encountered during firefighting operations. Fires produce a range of carcinogens and toxins, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, formaldehyde, and hydrogen cyanide, which can adhere to gear surfaces. So it should come as no surprise that regular cleaning plays a crucial role in reducing the absorption and potential long-term effects of these harmful substances.

Levels of Cleaning: Routine, Advanced, and Decontamination

  1. Routine Cleaning: This level involves basic cleaning measures performed after each incident or on a regular basis. It includes removing loose debris, spot cleaning, and using specialized wipes to address visible soiling.
  2. Advanced Cleaning: Advanced cleaning goes beyond routine measures and typically occurs in a controlled environment. It involves thorough cleaning using specific detergents, specialized equipment, and proper techniques to remove contaminants that may not be visible.
  3. Decontamination: Decontamination is a specialized cleaning process primarily used after exposure to hazardous materials or high-risk incidents. It requires advanced equipment, training, and adherence to specific protocols to ensure the gear is thoroughly decontaminated.

Can Turnout Gear Be Washed in a Washing Machine?

Yes, turnout gear can be washed in a washing machine, but it is crucial to follow specific guidelines to maintain gear integrity and effectiveness. Here are important caveats to consider:

  1. Front Loader Machines: Use only front-loading washing machines, as they are less aggressive and gentler on the gear compared to top-loading machines.
  2. Dedicated Machine: It is essential to dedicate a washing machine solely for cleaning personal protective equipment (PPE). This prevents cross-contamination with regular laundry and potential exposure to harmful substances.
  3. Water Temperature: Set the water temperature to a maximum of 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) to avoid damaging the gear’s protective properties.
  4. Low pH Detergent: Use a low pH detergent with a pH level between 6 and 10.5. Avoid using bleach or fabric softeners as they can degrade the gear’s integrity.
  5. Weight Limit: Do not exceed a total gear weight of 100g in a single washing cycle to prevent excessive stress on the machine and gear.

Considerations When Washing Turnout Gear in a Washing Machine

  • Before machine washing, check the manufacturer’s guidelines and recommendations specific to your turnout gear.
  • Always remove any detachable parts or accessories, such as liners or hardware, before washing.
  • Allow gear to air dry thoroughly before storing or reusing it.

It is critical to adhere to the recommended guidelines when considering machine washing turnout gear. Thinking back to the five tips listed earlier, each is considered an essential step to maintain gear integrity. However, for an optimal clean that preserves the protective properties of turnout gear, CO2 technology offers a superior alternative. See how ETD fares in the lab for further proof.

Why Liquid CO2 is the Ultimate Clean

While machine washing turnout gear is an option, alternative methods like CO2 technology provide an ideal clean and bolster the safety and well-being of firefighters. CO2 cleaning employs pressurized carbon dioxide in its liquid state, which penetrates fabric fibers to remove contaminants effectively. This method ensures a deep, residue-free clean without compromising the gear’s protective properties.

Maintaining clean turnout gear is vital for the safety and well-being of firefighters. While machine washing can be done using dedicated front-loading machines and adhering to specific guidelines, utilizing CO2 technology offers an ideal cleaning solution. By following recommended cleaning practices and exploring alternative methods, firefighters can enhance their protection against cancer risks and promote occupational safety and health. Regular cleaning, whether through routine, advanced, or decontamination measures, helps minimize the absorption of carcinogens and toxins present in turnout gear.

CO2 cleaning utilizes pressurized carbon dioxide to effectively remove contaminants without compromising the gear’s functionality. By embracing this advanced cleaning method, firefighters can ensure a deep, residue-free clean that minimizes the risks associated with carcinogens and toxins.

Remember, disease control and prevention, as advocated by organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are vital in the fire service. By prioritizing the cleanliness and maintenance of turnout gear, firefighters take proactive steps in reducing the potential risks of developing cancer and other health issues.

By staying informed about the latest cleaning practices and embracing innovative approaches, the fire service can continue to prioritize the protection and health of its dedicated personnel. Regular cleaning, proper maintenance, and vigilance against potential hazards contribute to a safer and healthier fire service community.

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