SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 28 September 2020

Resistance of Fire Protective Fabrics to Repeated Launderings


Protective gear worn by firefighters, oil and gas industry workers, and others potentially exposed to heat and flame undergoes regular routine and advanced cleanings throughout its lifetime to remove debris, soiling, and contamination. Advanced cleaning involves thorough washing with cleaning agents. Currently, fire protective clothing experiences a minimum of one to two advanced cleaning procedures per year. However, this frequency is expected to strongly increase as it was discovered that smoke particles and combustion-generated carcinogenic species can penetrate firefighters’ protective clothing; protective clothing may now have to be cleaned after each fire-related operation. The assessment of the effect of repeated launderings on the performance of fire protective fabrics is thus critical. The study was conducted on a series of typical fabrics used in fire protective clothing, including a firefighter bunker suit moisture barrier. They were subjected to up to 50 washing/drying cycles using the washing and drying conditions specified in NFPA 1971 (2007). After 10, 20, 35, and 50 cycles, the residual tearing strength of the specimens was measured. The results show two different trends depending on the fabric blend. For all Kevlar-based fabrics, a decrease in tearing strength as a function of the number of washing cycles was observed, which can be attributed to the sensitivity of Kevlar to hydrolysis. The rate of this decrease strongly varied with the fiber content. No significant change was observed for the Nomex-based fabrics or for the moisture barrier. These results demonstrate the importance of assessing the long-term resistance of fire protective fabrics to laundering using a number of cycles that corresponds to conditions the clothing will experience over its lifetime.

Author Information

Dolez, Patricia
Dept. of Human Ecology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, CA
Malajati, Yassine
Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Ecole de Technologie Superieure, Montreal, CA
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Pages: 100–113
DOI: 10.1520/STP162420190079
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-7695-9
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-7694-2