Historically, worn and dirty uniforms are seen as a symbol of someone who is experienced in their trade. Whether its a dirty jumpsuit of a lifetime mechanic, the sun faded uniforms of a salty veteran, or until recently, the dirty turnout gear of a seasoned fire fighter. We now know that there are many hazards besides fires that fire fighters deal with regularly, but that wasn't always the case.
Before 2001, there were no published standards in regards to the care, maintenance, and proper decontamination of turnout gear. Those who chose to wash their gear likely did so with the assistance of a self-serve car wash, or even a bucket of water and a scrub brush. Many firefighters had the mindset that the dirty gear they wear was a badge of honor, proof that they have walked the walk. At this time, it was being noticed that firefighters were coming down with very specific types of cancers at many times the rate of the non-firefighting population. Having identified dirty gear as part of the issue, something had to be done.
Gear needed to be washed, but it also can't be damaged. Working with gear manufacturers, it was determined that while washing turnout gear, several limits must be abided by in order to not damage the uniforms.
-No baths more than 105 Degrees Fahrenheit
-Detergent must be mild, with a pH between 6.0-10.5
-Extract force may not exceed 100Gs.
-Wash outer shells with outer shells, and inner liners with inner liners
-Must be a dedicated machine
Too high of a temperature can alter the integrity of the garment, just as well as the incorrect detergent. The extract must be kept below 100 G's to keep the outers from tearing apart, and to keep the batting inside the inner liners from migrating and leaving blank spots.
Because the majority of the carcinogens encountered or deposited on the outer shell, you should never wash your inner liners with your outer shell, lest you risk contaminating the inners further. Similarly, you wouldn't want to wash your workout clothes in the gear washing machine to prevent cross contamination there. This information, along with other information pertaining to storage and repair of this gear was compiled into NFPA1851, where we refer to it today.
If you are looking for equipment for your station, allow CLS&S to help. From machine size, to detergent choice, all the way to training on the installed product, CLS&S will help every step of the way. Contact us today for cleaner gear!