What Is The Best Way To Clean Bunker Gear?

by | Jan 26, 2021

As awareness continues to grow around the risks of decontaminated turnout gear, the question changes from Why should we decontaminate gear? to How do we decontaminate gear? Today, turnout gear is required to be cleaned twice a year and is recommended after every exposure to a fire. As departments begin to create a process around cleaning gear, we thought it would be beneficial to highlight what options are currently available to fire stations.

There are three very different choices a chief has when it comes to deciding the best option for cleaning bunker gear and equipment; Send away service, in house extractors, and RedLine.

Shipping Away Bunker Gear

Send Away Service

One of the more traditional methods of decontaminating turnout gear is to send gear away to third party cleaners. Chances are if you are a firefighter you have had your gear taken at one point or another and sent away to be cleaned. Across the country there are dozens of cleaners that specialize in decontaminating bunker gear for firefighters, you may even rely on the gear manufacturer to do cleanings or repair.

While this option is fairly easy for departments to do, there are a number of downsides to sending your turnout gear away to be cleaned. To start, what if your fire station does not have extra sets of gear for each firefighter? Many small and volunteer fire departments do not have the budget to purchase additional sets of bunker gear for their station. Sending away gear to be cleaned can cause firefighters to go weeks without having their gear. This brings us to another downside, sending gear away can take a very long time. Not only do you have to factor in the time to clean the gear but you also need to think about the time the gear will be in transit and paying for that shipment.

Sending gear out to be professionally cleaned was a good business model many years ago, but with pressure to clean gear more frequently, the cost of sending gear away and the time that it is away from the station is just too high of a cost for departments to pay.

Bunker Gear Extractors

In House Extractors

Let it be known that we love when we show up to a fire station and see gear extractors. We understand that that station lobbied for an increased budget to purchase gear extractors and found the space needed to install them into the fire house. Turnout gear extractors are fantastic for immediately cleaning gear after a major exposure, it is quick and easy to decontaminate a few sets of gear and the station has already paid for the machine so the cost to clean is relatively low.

Unfortunately, what we have found is that stations with in house gear extractors tend to either misuse the machines or not use them at all. When a station has gear extractors it is usually up to the individual firefighters to clean their gear and let’s face it, after a long day the last thing anyone wants to do is clean gear. Besides that, there are a number of things one can do to improperly clean and dry their gear. What we find is that while the intention to clean the gear is there, the execution is not, oftentimes posing a risk to firefighters as they think their gear is clean but in reality they are still contaminated.

For fire departments that don’t yet have in house extractors, there are many things to take into consideration. The first is the sheer cost, these things aren’t cheap and trying to budget for one can be difficult. Along with budgeting, there needs to be enough space at the station to dedicate to these machines and they need to be properly installed. Many extractors we see are plumbed directly into the sewage system, so while you may be cleaning your gear of harmful toxins, these same chemicals are now being thrown away without proper removal.

At Redline, we believe inhouse gear extractors are a great supplement to a more robust gear cleaning strategy.


Bunker Gear Extractors


RedLine has brought to market the first on demand gear cleaning program. An option that fire departments across the country have not had up until now. With new standards and regulations in place, it is more important than ever to have a cleaning program that is easy, fast, and budgetable.

RedLine developed a state of the art Mobile Extraction Unit (MEU) to service fire departments anywhere/anytime. With the ability to clean more than 40 sets of gear in a day, RedLine can create a program for any size department. Not only does RedLine clean shells and liner, but the MEU has machines capable of cleaning helmets, gloves, boots, respirators and more.

 The ability to have your bunker gear professionally cleaned and serviced onsite is a huge advantage for many fire stations, it means less time you need to worry about compliance and more time your team can focus on the task at hand.

The MEU is the perfect solution for departments that need scheduled annual gear cleanings and also a rapid response to cleaning after an incident. Having one partner you can call on to clean and decontaminate gear is extremely beneficial.

Want to learn more about creating a gear cleaning program for your department? Call us today for a free quote (844) 773-7356.