Advanced Cleaning Instructions for Turnout Gear

Do-It-Yourself vs. Recognized Turnout Gear Laundering & Repair Facilities

We strongly recommend that fire departments employ the services of companies that have been recognized by the manufacturers of turnout gear as being reliable in the cleaning and maintenance of turnout gear.

Or, for a variety of good reasons—equipment already installed, distance from a recognized turnout gear cleaning facility, expediency, etc.—the fire department may wish to clean its own turnout gear. In such cases, we urge you to follow the instructions that follow.

When assessing whether to use a specialized turnout gear cleaning company or to have the fire department clean its own gear, the fire department should remember to consider all its costs:

  • the capital cost of washing equipment
  • the expense of proper cleaning agents
  • the time of the firefighter(s) assigned to cleaning
  • the risk of damaging turnout gear through an error in cleaning

We do not recommend commercial laundries, hospital laundries, etc. for cleaning turnout gear unless they have been specifically authorized to do so by the manufacturer. Most of these facilities are accustomed to using cleaning agents with high pH's, high wash temperatures, and high drying temperatures. Unless they are aware of the special precautions and procedures for laundering turnout gear and unless they scrupulously and unerringly follow them—they could cause irreparable damage to turnout gear during a single cleaning.


Manufacturer's Instructions

NFPA 1851 states that the manufacturer's instructions shall always take precedence over those of NFPA 1851. Failure to follow the manufacturer's instructions may cause damage to the gear and void any warranties.

The following laundering instructions are those of Sperian and vary slightly from those of NFPA 1851. If you are using turnout gear other than Sperian, the manufacturer thereof for his recommendations.


Do not use high-velocity power washers or hose streams for cleaning. You may seriously damage the fabrics, seams and reflective trim.
Do not scrub vigorously with any brush. Moisture barrier and thermal liner materials, seams and reflective trim are particularly vulnerable.
Do not use any cleaning agent that has a pH greater than 8.0. Even one washing with a high-pH cleaning agent may cause a dramatic and irreversible reduction in the durability and performance of the turnout gear fabrics and trim.
Do not allow wash or rinse water temperature to exceed 105F. Higher temperatures will increase fabric shrinkage and risk of degrading the reflective trim.
Do not use, under any circumstances, chlorine bleach or chlorinated solvents. Even one washing with chlorine bleach may cause a dramatic and irreversible reduction in the durability and performance of the turnout gear fabrics.
Do not clean soiled or contaminated protective clothing with anything other than similar items of PPE; i.e. clean bunker coats and pants only with bunker coats and pants.


Do use specialty turnout gear cleaner and spotter having neutral pH (5.0 to 8.0). Such products should only be purchased from reputable companies that guarantee that their products are specifically intended for cleaning turnout gear. Examples of such products are Winsol and Citrosqueeze.

Where liners are separable from outer shells, do clean liners only with liners, and outer shells only with outer shells.


  1. Wear protective gloves and eye/face splash protection.
  2. Pre-treat severely soiled areas of garment component (e.g. an outer shell or a liner) with a specialty spotter agent for turnout gear. Allow specialty spotter to soak into the fabric and stain; gently scrubbing with a soft-bristle brush may aid in removing of stubborn stains.
  3. For globs of tar that have adhered to the fabric, allow spotter to soak into the tar and fabric. Then, using a plastic or wood scrapper, gently attempt to lift tar.

Utility Sink Cleaning

  1. Wear protective gloves and eye/face splash protection.
  2. Put garment component(s) in sink but not so many as to prevent thorough cleaning and rinsing.
  3. Fill the sink with water whose temperature does not exceed 105F.
  4. Add turnout gear cleaning agent or detergent.
  5. Agitate garment component(s) by hand until they are thoroughly wet (the use of a stirring stick is discouraged because it may damage the moisture barrier or the liner seams).
  6. Where time permits, leave the garment component to soak for 10-30 minutes, stubborn soiling will often be more easily removed as a result.
  7. Using a soft bristle brush, scrub soiled areas.
  8. Take particular care when scrubbing the moisture barrier side of the liner or the silver stripe on reflective trim.
  9. Drain the water from the sink.
  10. Squeeze out as much wash water as possible from the garment component(s). (Wringing of the liner is discouraged because such action may damage the moisture barrier or liner seams)
  11. Refill the sink and thoroughly agitate the garment component(s) by hand.
  12. Repeat steps 10 through 12 until the rinse water runs clean.
  13. Dry the garment component(s).
  14. Clean the sink of any residue from washing.
  15. Inspect the dry garment component, rewash if necessary.

Machine Washing

N.B. Use a front-loading washing machine only, top-loading agitator machines may damage protective garments.

  1. Wear protective gloves.
  2. Fasten all closures, e.g. hooks & dees, zippers, Velcro, snaps, etc.
  3. Load the machine as per machine manufacturer's instructions.
  4. Select wash cycle and start the machine using water whose temperature does not exceed 105F.
  5. Add approved turnout gear cleaning agent.
  6. Complete the full cycle, which should include at least two rinses.
  7. Dry the garment component(s).
  8. Inspect the dry garment, rewash if necessary.
  9. If the washing machine is also used to wash items other than PPE, it should be cleaned after each washing of PPE. This cleaning can be accomplished by running it, with no load in it, through one full cycle using detergent and hot water.