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Benefits of Cleaning Firefighter Turnout Gear with a Washer Extractor

Fires in buildings today are not the same as they were in the past. In addition to wood, glass and metals, modern structures are now filled with plastics, electronics and endless materials made with flame retardants. This combination of burning materials creates a dangerous carcinogen concoction and we’re beginning to learn more about its damaging effects on firefighters. However, cleaning firefighter turnout gear properly is paramount in limiting the spread of these harmful carcinogens to firefighters and their families.

This deadly mix of carcinogens has been found to significantly increase all firefighters’ chances of being diagnosed with cancer, the leading line-of-duty deaths cause for firefighters. Firefighters have a 60 percent chance of dying from cancer compared to 20 percent for the rest of the population, according to the International Association of Firefighters.

Turnout gear is designed to protect firefighters against heat but the soot seeps into gaps around the face, neck, hands and legs. As body temperature increases five degrees your pores open and absorb up to 400 percent more than usual leaving firefighters extra vulnerable to the harmful soot. In a Fox 9 News investigation it was revealed that firefighters are twice as likely to develop testicular cancer and have a greater risk of developing the following cancers due to over exposure to the deadly carcinogens:

  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Skin
  • Brain
  • Prostate
  • Stomach
  • Colon

The facts are extremely troubling but the best solution is to improve the process of cleaning firefighter turnout gear by using washer extractors. These innovative machines find the perfect balance between too easy of a wash (unable to lift and remove the carcinogens) and too harsh of a wash (damaging the protective materials used to make the equipment). Using these machines is easy too, offering several preset cycles firefighters can toss their equipment in the washer, set the cycle and go.

UniMac offers exceptional washer extractors and gear drying cabinets designed following NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) guidelines. UniMac provides great detail surrounding the importance of this issue and how they are using industry leading technology to meet the needs of fire departments everywhere. UniMac Guide  further explaining the importance of cleaning firefighter turnout gear. 

A handful of fire departments throughout Minnesota received grants to install this equipment in their station. Check out the UniMac equipment available through BDS Laundry Systems.

UniMac’s machines are designed to meet and exceed the following NFPA personal protective equipment (PPE) washing requirements:

  • Must use a front-loading washer. Top-loading washers take years off PPE lifespan from mechanical agitation damage.
  • 105 degrees Fahrenheit maximum water temperature.
  • 100 G-Force maximum
  • pH neutral cleaner 
  • Cannot store wet PPE, must be forced ventilation air with proper circulation promoting an optimized dry

UniMac’s washer-extractors feature UniLinc technology that allows users to properly program cycles to meet the NFPA requirements and make starting a load as easy as pressing a button. This allows users to work with their chemical supply company to program the machine to inject the proper amount of chemicals at exactly the right time based on water temperature. 


The PPE Dryer Cabinet can also be programmed for cycles ranging from 1.5 to 3 hours. This process provides dual sided airflow sending heated air around and inside turnout gear, boots, lining, boots, etc. for a thorough drying at max speed and efficiency. 

This is a helpful video detailing the cleaning process for PPE equipment using front load UniMac washer extractors.

PPE Cleaning

If you’re interested in learning more about how to get a washer extractor in your fire department, please contact the experienced BDS Laundry Systems online or by calling 800-688-8820 today.

UniMac PPE Turnout Gear Cabinet and the UniMac UC Washers
Chief Mike Scott of Eagan Fire Department with the UniMac PPE Turnout Gear Cabinet and the UniMac UC Washers
Our team of experienced commercial laundry professionals is ready to assist you. Email or call us at 1-800-688-0020.