Care and Cleaning Guidelines
Globe CARES: CARES is our acronym for Cleaning and Repair Evaluation Services which Globe offers to assist customers with the advanced cleaning and inspection required by NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting. This user standard also requires that Independent Service Providers (ISPs) or Organizations (fire departments) who wish to perform their own advanced cleaning and inspections must be trained by the manufacturer. Click here for more information on the various ways in which we are able to provide this necessary training.
NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, has led to an increased awareness among firefighters for the need to have turnout clothing laundered regularly. The NFPA Technical Committee for structural clothing addressed this in the 1991 revision of NFPA 1971, almost 17 years ago, by adding an appendix item dedicated exclusively to the care and cleaning of bunker clothing. NFPA 1851 sets minimum requirements for the inspection, care and cleaning of all protective ensemble elements covered by NFPA 1971. The Globe label on every garment provides very basic information for laundering; however, what follows is a much more comprehensive set of instructions for cleaning gear.
- If the liners and/or the DRD are detachable, they should be removed from the shell and laundered separately. This is to prevent any contaminants on the shell being transferred to the inner portions of the garment during the laundering process. It is also recommended that you turn the liner inside out prior to laundering to facilitate the drying of the inner layer.
- All closures should be fastened: Hook and loop hook tape covering hook and loop pile, hooks and dees fastened, zippers zipped and snaps fastened. It is imperative that you cover the hook portion of all hook and loop to prevent snagging during laundering and to help guard against premature wear.
- Proximity gear should never be machine washed under any conditions. For structural gear, we recommend a front loading washing machine, which does not have an agitator, and preferably one that is designated specifically for cleaning turnouts. A stainless steel tub should be utilized if available. We have been advised by care and cleaning facilities who work with protective clothing that the extractor G force is very important and they suggest that 85 Gs would be best, but certainly no more than 100 Gs. If you are trying to convert RPM’s to G force, you can do so using the following formula:
CRPM = Cylinder RPM
CD = Cylinder diameter (inches)
G Forces = CRPM x CRPM x CD
- If you must use a top loader, we suggest utilizing a laundry bag to protect the inside of the washing machine from the hooks and dees (and to protect the hooks and dees from the agitator of a washing machine when using a top load model).
Machine Washing: We are often asked if machine washing could affect the protective qualities of your turnout gear. The special fabrics that make up your turnouts contain inherent flame and heat resistance properties, which cannot be washed off or worn out. However, given the nature of the contaminants to which firefighters are exposed, you should never, never use the same machine that you do your home laundry in. When machine washing, always prepare the clothing as directed, by separating removable liners and DRDs from outer shells and fastening all closure systems. Use warm water and a normal cycle; water temperature should not exceed 105°F. Following each complete wash cycle, thoroughly rinse your garments. Liners should be turned inside out, while DRDs should be laundered in a mesh bag; every separable component should be laundered separately.
Protective clothing should always be washed by itself; do not overload the washing machine, do not use softeners, and NEVER use chlorine bleach. Our recommended method of drying is to hang in a shaded area that receives good cross ventilation or hang on a line and use a fan to circulate the air. Naturally, the turnout system will dry more quickly if you separate the layers for laundering and turning the liner system inside out will facilitate drying of the quilt thermal barrier.
Cleansers: Cleansers generally fall into two categories, detergents and soaps. Of the two, detergents make the best cleansers because they are formulated to contain special agents that help prevent redeposition of soil. Soil redeposition is soil which is first removed from a laundered article, but later in the same wash cycle is redeposited as a thin soil film on the entire surface of the article. The most distinctive advantage of detergents is that they do not form curd in hard water. Soap curd is the material which forms a ring around the bathtub when bathing with soaps, and this curd is extremely difficult to rinse out of your garment. All cleaning agents are clearly labeled as being either detergents or soaps; and we recommend liquid detergents, since they are less likely to leave any residue on the clothing. It should also be noted that NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting Ensembles requires that cleaning and contamination solutions shall have a pH range of not less than 6.0 pH and not greater than 10.5 pH.
Spot Cleaning and Pretreating: Precleaners can be used to clean light spots and stains on protective clothing. Squirt the precleaner onto the soiled area and gently rub fabric together until a light foam appears on the surface; this foam should be completely rinsed off with cool water prior to washing. A soft bristle brush, such as a toothbrush, may be used to gently scrub the soiled area for approximately one to one and a half minutes. An alternative method would be to pretreat garment by applying liquid detergent directly from the bottle onto the soiled area and proceed as with precleaners. Any spot cleaning or pretreating should be followed by machine washing prior to field use.
Dry Cleaning: Dry cleaning can adversely affect both the 3M triple trim and the REFLEXITE® trims, as well as the moisture barrier, and is therefore not recommended. If you should decide that your particular exposure requires dry cleaning, knowing and accepting the risks involved, you must be sure and specify to the launderer to use non-flammable dry cleaning processes that will not adversely affect the materials. Again, our experience is that dry cleaning may well result in damaging certain components of the gear.
Special Cleaning Compounds: We are not able to "endorse" any of the special compounds that are being advertised for use in the fire service. However, if you are interested in a specific cleaning agent, we recommend that you contact the manufacturer of the cleaner being considered and make your own determination as to suitability. You may want to ask for names of other departments currently using the product and see what their experience has been. It is always a good idea to review MSDS sheets on products being considered.
Removing Oil or Tar: Oil based soils such as motor oil and tar can be removed with solvents such as "Varsol" prior to washing, says E.I. DuPont, the folks who produce the NOMEX® and KEVLAR® fibers used in the vast majority of turnout fabrics. However, they do add the cautionary statement that the garment must be thoroughly washed and rinsed to ensure that all residual solvent is completely removed. They also point out that coated material should never be dry cleaned. The manufacturers of PBI fiber also recommend in their User Advisory that solvents such as Varsol may be used to remove stubborn stains such as tar, providing that the garments are well laundered and rinsed prior to actual use. You must always avoid using solvents on the leather or reflective trim.
NOTE: NFPA 1851 instructs the user to not use solvents; however, based upon our experience, we believe Varsol to be the one exception to the rule.
Bleach: One of the most often asked questions concerns the decontamination of a turnout system, especially with chlorine bleach. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should chlorine bleach be used on firefighters' clothing; most systems contain KEVLAR®, either as a blend or as the primary fiber, and KEVLAR® is extremely susceptible to damage when exposed to bleach.
Trim: 3M, the manufacturers of both SCOTCHLITE™ and Triple Trim, recommend that the following guidelines be used for their product: (1) Damp wipe, using warm water not to exceed 105°F, and mild detergent. Rinse thoroughly, dry with a soft cloth, or allow to air dry. (2) If you choose to machine wash, use warm water. (3) Do not dry clean. These instructions are equally effective for REFLEXITE® products.
Decontamination: For extreme contamination with products of combustion, fire debris or body fluids, removal of the contaminants by flushing with water as soon as possible is necessary, followed by appropriate cleaning. In the case of bloodborne pathogens, recommended decontamination procedures include using a .5 to 1% concentration of Lysol, or a 3-6% concentration of stabilized hydrogen peroxide. Liquid glutaraldehyde, available through commercial sources, will also provide high to intermediate levels of disinfectant activity. The current edition of NFPA 1851 states that if a garment is verified as having been exposed to chemical, biological or radiological agents, that garment should be immediately removed from service and retired. When decontamination is not possible, the garments should be discarded in accordance with local, State and Federal regulations. Garments that are discarded should be destroyed.
Hand Washing: The industry recognizes that hand washing is generally not able to remove the ground-in soil embedded in the material fibers and usually only serves to remove surface dirt. However, in the event that you do not have access to a washing machine and must hand wash your garment, remove your liner system and lay the outer shell on a non-abrasive hard surface. Using a soft bristle scrub brush and a detergent (not soap), clean your garment by making circular motions with the brush, forming progressively larger circles until the entire surface has been washed. You must then rinse the shell, using clear water, to ensure that all of the detergent has been removed. We recommend that you rinse the entire garment several times to avoid any possibility of soil detergent residue. NFPA 1851 does require that machine laundering be used for advanced cleaning, unless specifically prohibited.
Outside Cleaning Assistance: One question we are often asked is whether the gear can be or even should be cleaned by a professional. NFPA 1851 requires that training for advanced cleaning of turnouts be provided by the manufacturer and to this end, we can provide you with a list of ISPs (independent service providers) who have completed the Globe training classes. We believe that these companies offer a valuable service and we encourage our customers to directly contact any of these outside cleaning facilities to determine if they are able to meet the fire department needs. Some possible questions to ask would be if they provide any warranties on their services, and whether they are able to give any guarantees concerning the effectiveness of their cleaning.
Cleaning Proximity Clothing: GENTEX®, the producers of the aluminized outer shells used in the fire service today, point out that the outer side of the aluminized material offers a highly reflective surface and it is extremely important to keep this surface clean so that it may perform at peak efficiency. They recommend the following care and cleaning instructions for aluminized proximity outer shells:
- Clean by gently rubbing the surface with a soft cloth or sponge containing mild soap.
- Rinse thoroughly.
- DO NOT MACHINE WASH.
- Dry garment by hanging in a well ventilated, shaded area.
- Use a fan to circulate the air if necessary.
- Do not store garment wet or with any chemical contamination.
- Do not clean with any compounds containing ammonia, chlorine or other oxidizing or abrasive agents.
Conclusions: In caring for your turnout clothing, you must always remember that it features three piece layering and multiple components, and you must consider each individual layer and component when deciding how to clean. We do encourage every department to keep their clothing clean and to regularly inspect and repair as needed. Having dirt, soot, and other debris clinging to your gear represents a safety hazard. Clean turnout gear is lighter in weight, lasts longer, and is more visible than dirty turnout gear.
Additional information for download: