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Using Commercial Laundry Equipment to Clean Firefighter Gear

By Tracey Adcock, B&C Technologies 

In the past, dirty turnout gear was a sign of an experienced firefighter. Today we know that dirty gear is full of toxins and can be dangerous. Having soot and other surface dirt on the outside of the gear puts the firefighter at risk because dirty PPE is more likely to conduct heat and become flammable. If the dirt and soot is covering the reflective trim then the firefighter may not be visible during the course of a fire.

The contaminants aren’t only on the outside of gear- they’re embedded in the fibers of the cloth. Firefighters are very careful to not inhale harmful carcinogens during a fire, but once they leave the scene, they carry all the harmful toxins with them on their gear. These toxins can now be inhaled, absorbed through the skin or ingested. The only way to properly protect firefighters is through proper washing and drying of turn out gear.   A commercial washer is the best option to efficiently and thoroughly clean gear.

According to NFPA guidelines any machine used to clean gear cannot be used to launder any other clothing due to the risk of contaminating the goods and the washer should be set to only extract at 100G’s to gently remove excess water. Gear should also not be washed at a temperature greater than 105 degrees. Commercial washers can be programmed to meet the requirements for the NFPA and PPE manufacturers and they will provide many more years of service than traditional home style washers.

After proper cleaning, it’s important to make sure that they gear is completely dry. Damp turnout gear can be just as dangerous as dirty gear. If gear isn’t fully dried, the moisture left can turn into steam during a fire and subject the firefighter to burns. Any moisture left in the gear can also mold or mildew. Using a traditional tumble dryer can wear the goods out faster due to the mechanical action of the dryer.

Turnout gear cannot be dried at temperatures greater than 105 degrees so the air only option has to be used for this type of dryer. This method can be take some time and uses more energy. Air drying is time consuming and it’s difficult to determine if the gear is thoroughly dry. Using a gear drying cabinet is the best solution to effectively and thoroughly dry PPE. Gear drying cabinets are preset to correct temperature and don’t have mechanical action and therefore dries the gear gently and thoroughly. The ideal solution is to have a drying cabinet that is equipped with a humidity sensor to avoid over drying. In addition to wasting energy, over drying causes goods to wear out faster.

Although there are a few options to clean turnout gear, using commercial laundry equipment ensures that the gear is properly and thoroughly cleaned and dried.  Clean, dry gear lasts longer and protects better.

Photo credit:  Can Stock Photo, Leaf


About the Author:

Tracey Adcock is the Inside Sales and Marketing Director at B&C Technologies based in Panama City Beach, Florida.