A Guideline For Washing Your Firefighting Hood
When you received your last new hood did you take the time to read all the information that was attached to it that explains how to take care of and clean it?
If you’re anything like me all this information was discarded along with the packaging.
We need to change our mentality and take the time to educate ourselves on how to care for and clean our hood! It could save our lives!
With the extremely high cancer rates among firefighter’s we need to take every measure possible to reduce our risk!
It is not a badge of honor to wear dirty hood! Our hood is the one piece of our PPE that directly contacts our skin. This allows any contaminates on our hood to be absorbed by or through our skin.
How often should you clean your hood? You should clean your hood after each use or whenever it becomes soiled. A qualified individual within the department or an independent service provider should conduct inspection and advanced cleaning on an annual basis. Written documentation of inspection and advanced cleaning should be kept.
Improper cleaning of your hood can severely damage it. Here is a list of preventive measures and precautions to adhere to:
- DO NOT US CHLORINE BLEACH OR DETERGENTS CONTAINING CHLORINE (such substances compromise the protective qualities of your hood by breaking down hood materials)
- DO NOT USE FABRIC SOFTENERS OR DETERGENTS CONTAINING FABRIC SOFTENERS
- DO NOT WASH YOUR HOOD WITH PERSONAL ITEMS
- DO NOT COMMERCIALLY DRY CLEAN
- DO NOT LINE-DRY IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT
- Wear protective gloves and eye/face protection when cleaning dirty PPE
- Use regular mild detergent
- Water temperature not to exceed 130 degrees F (warm water recommended)
- Tumble dry heat not to exceed 130 degrees F (low-heat recommended)
Washing machines and dryers may be used, but only under special conditions. If you are washing your hood along with your turnout gear, wash it with only the liners. Do not wash with the outer shells, as the hardware and hook/loop closure tape will damage the hood. Use the following procedures if machine washing or drying:
- Choose a washing machine that is used for washing PPE. Top-loading machines may be used, front-loading washers/extractors are preferred, as the machines are less likely to physically damage the PPE and can be programmed to specific water levels, temperatures, and times.
- Bush off loose debris. Should any debris or materials be adhered to the fabric of the hood, remove the hood from service until it can be professionally inspected and cleaned to a serviceable condition.
- Pre-treat soiled or spotted areas.
- Only load machine to 80% of its rated capacity. Overloading with result in ineffective cleaning.
- Use mild wash settings with warm water.
- Use a mild detergent in volume according to the detergent supplier’s instructions. NOTE: If you are washing your hood with your turnout gear also consult the turnout gear manufacturers recommendations.
- Tumble dry on a low-heat setting or line dry in a well ventilated, cool, shaded area – NOT IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT.
- Inspect the hood and if necessary rewash or submit for advanced cleaning and inspection.
If taking care of PPE is part of your departmental responsibilities it is recommended that you become familiar with NFPA 1851 – Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting.
Even with proper cleaning and care your hood will not last for ever. The recommended shelf life for a hood is generally less than 10 years. This time frame is based upon the date of manufacture not the date of purchase. Check the label inside your hood to determine the month and year of manufacture.
The job we do is dangerous! We owe it to our family and ourselves to take measures that we can control to reduce our risk! Washing our hood is a simple measure that we can control! DO IT!
Post written by Brett Graves, Vice President/COO The Firefighting Depot