Rugged Turnout Gear Requires Delicate Care

Darrell Redler explains why firefighter turnouts can withstand the effects of a burning building, yet a simple home washer can render them useless.


Firefighter turnouts can withstand the effects of a burning building, yet a simple home washer can render them useless. The improper cleaning action of a top-loading home-style washer is brutal to turnouts. The agitator in most home machines harshly abrades the material while other parts of...


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During the laundering process, water circulates in and around the outer shells and inner linings. When turnout gear is subjected to high-speed extraction, water is violently pulled from the goods. Since the moisture barrier is by necessity waterproof, water must pass either around or through the barrier. Water is often trapped within the folds of the gear during the wash process. This results in small microbursts of the fabric that leads to premature moisture barrier failure when using excessively high extract speeds. This effect will also be evidenced by the premature deterioration of the reflective striping (safety striping, name, number, etc.) on the gear. This can lead to increased maintenance cost, premature gear retirement, or worse still, increased risk to the firefighter.

Consideration should also be given to drying turnout gear. A variety of devices and methods are available to fire departments. The best course of action, including the washing of turnout gear, is to always consult the manufacturer’s specific cleaning and drying instructions.


Darrell Redler is a market specialist for Milnor Laundry Systems.