The Advantages of Using Commercial Laundry Equipment to Clean PPE

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.

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Published onFri Sep 5 byTraceyAdcock
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  1. Thanks for the information. Like you said, cleaning laundry as a firefighter can be a tough. The material is just so much harder to clean. That’s why it’s so important to have good equipment. I’m going to make sure I find a laundromat with solid, commercial machines. That should ensure that my “clean, dry gear lasts longer and protects better”.

  2. I learned a lot about the benefits of commercial laundry equipment by reading this article. It was cool to learn that these services can clean and dry your clothing in a short amount of time. I hope that this article can help to get all of my clothes cleaned.

  3. Our firemen jackets and pants damage very rapidly because here in Guayaquil, Ecuador the weather is very hot and humid. Do you have any climate controlled cabinets for firemen apparell storage or any advise you can give us on what to do?

    • Hi Ricardo,

      Thanks for you comment. It is very important to keep the turnout gear as dry as possible – we have similar problems here in Florida with the heat and humidity. The gear should be cleaned and dried thoroughly after exposure to fire and smoke. Once cleaned and dried, it can be stored and will be ready for the next use. How are you currently drying your gear? A standard tumbling dryer will quickly wear out things like reflective tapes and zippers. Drying the gear by hanging it outside in the sun will cause rapid deterioration from UV rays in sunlight. The solution is a drying cabinet designed specifically for fireman’s gear, which thoroughly dries the gear without any mechanical action.

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