The Importance of Gear Cleaning
Gear cleaning is an important part of everyday life for firefighters, who encounter everything from hydrogen cyanide to benzene and other hazardous materials during a day’s work. Read on for different options to get your gear clean and free of contaminants.
First step: Spray your gear off right after a fire scene
Simply spraying down your gear with a water hose can remove much of the soot, debris and even harmful contaminants found on gear after a fire scene. Doing an on-scene decontamination can get rid of some of the contaminants on fire gear, helping reduce your risk of exposure to cancerous materials.
What if my gear is just lightly soiled?
You’ll want to follow routine cleaning procedures. Routine cleaning is meant for spot cleaning your gear—if your entire garment requires cleaning, you’ll want to undergo an advanced cleaning.
If your gear is just lightly soiled, brush off any dry debris, then gently rinse off other debris with plain water. For further routine cleaning, you may use a utility sink. Pretreat heavily soiled areas with a non-chlorine cleaner. Using a mild detergent, gently scrub your gear with a soft bristle brush then thoroughly rinse gear in mild water.
Air dry your gear in a well-ventilated area or, if necessary, use a clothes dryer on the “air dry” or “no heat” setting. When you’re done, inspect your gear. If it’s still not clean you may need to do an advanced cleaning.
How do I complete an advanced cleaning?
Most Fire-Dex gear must be machine washed, preferably in a front-loading machine. Separate shells and liners if possible, and clean like items with other like items (clean outer shells with outer shells, liners with liners, and so on).
Never take soiled or contaminated gear home with you or wash them in your home washing machine, and never use a commercial dry cleaner.
How often should I do an advanced cleaning?
Firefighting coats and trousers should be cleaned according to advanced cleaning procedures at least once every 12 months, even if your gear appears to be clean. Not all soiling is visible, but doing an advanced cleaning once a year will help ensure you’re not using ensemble elements that are contaminated.
What if my gear is covered in bodily fluids?
When bodily fluids are present on your gear, act as if they are infectious. Wear non-porous gloves as well as goggles or a face shield to prevent coming into contact with the fluids. Once identified, someone who has received appropriate decontamination training should clean the garment or the gear should be sent to a verified ISP.
What if my gear has been contaminated with hazardous materials?
Bag and tag your gear on-scene to isolate it and ensure nothing else is contaminated. Consult the local HazMat team or health department for help in determining the type of contaminant and how to properly clean your gear.
Gear can potentially be decontaminated, however, determining successful decontamination is tricky. Consult with a trained professional before you decide to reuse a protective ensemble exposed to known levels of contamination.
What if I’ve been in a CBRN situation?
If your gear has been contaminated in a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear defense terror attack, you’ll need to retire the gear.
At Fire-Dex, we offer gear and accessories to minimize repeated exposure to harmful carcinogens and other chemicals. Our TECGEN51 PPE product line is lighter, more comfortable gear for 90% of first responder calls. Our latest H41 Interceptor fire hood protects against harmful carcinogens on the head and neck.
Learn more about gear cleaning by taking our NFPA 1851 trainings.