For the best cleaning results, disassemble the helmet according to the instruction manual provided with the helmet. Mild soap and lukewarm water remove most dirt and some smoke residue. Rinse the helmet with lukewarm water after using any cleaning agent.
Some cleaning agents contain chemical solvents that attack thermoplastic helmets. Solvents can destroy the helmet, especially when applied to stressed areas such as key slots, faceshield mounting brackets or rear brim D-ring. The Bullard warranty does not cover helmets damaged by incompatible solvents. Helmets will be replaced at the owner’s expense.
Never use 1,1,1,-trichloromethane, other aromatic/chlorinated hydrocarbons or brake fluid to clean helmets. These common chemical solvents attack the shell material.
It is possible to paint an existing composite fire helmet. The original helmet manufacturer must approve the paint. Paints must be flame resistant and be non-conductive to meet specific performance requirements.
Thermoplastic helmets should not be painted. Paints can and will often contain solvents that could attack the thermoplastic properties, causing premature aging and potential cracking of the shell material. The thermoplastic is pigmented with a color and will not lose that color due to exposures. Therefore the need for painting is eliminated under most conditions.
A chip in a fire helmet is a blemish similar to the chip you might observe in paint. Any blemish in a composite helmet that is deeper than the thickness of paint on a helmet should not be called a chip. Any blemish that can truly be measured in depth is potentially hazardous territory. You should be able to cosmetically smooth out a chipped area for touch up paint. Never fill a chip with bondo or other types of materials. Filling chips in this way camouflages the area and may hide potential problems.
DANGER, DANGER, DANGER! Any crack is bad. Any crack in the dome portion of a helmet shell is serious, and the helmet must be removed from service. Do not attempt repair of any helmet shell that is cracked. You cannot repair a cracked shell. The integrity of the shell has been compromised and will not pass dielectric tests. That means that should you bump into a live electrical wire with a cracked helmet shell, it is extremely likely that the electrical current can and will pass through the helmet shell and make direct contact with the person wearing the helmet.
Any helmet should be removed from service if it has sustained a substantial blow from falling objects. The same would be true if the wearer has fallen and his head and helmet impacted the ground. When in doubt, take it out of service.
Should a thermoplastic helmet experience blistering/bubbling due to high heat exposure, remove it from service. Remove any helmet that is exposed to direct flame. Carefully examine composite helmets exposed to high heat for potential surface cracking/crazing due to the exposure. The composite shell should remain rigid when you attempt to flex the material. Any cracking sounds and ease of flex are signs of weakened material.
Helmets are sometimes kept in service well past their useful life. All elements of the firefighter’s ensemble will and do “wear out”. Frequent inspection with trained/educated eyes is needed to determine if a helmet can remain in service. These inspections should increase in frequency and their level of scrutiny as helmets get older.