Nomex® is the brand name for a heat and flame-resistant textile made by the DuPont chemical company and first marketed in 1967. Today, more than three million firefighters and aviation personnel around the world are protected by structure fire turnout gear, wildland fire personal protective equipment (PPE), and flight suits and jackets made of Nomex®.
Nomex® is not flame-proof. It burns when you hold a flame to it, but stops burning once the heat source is removed. The thick woven structure of synthetic fibers is a very poor conductor of heat. When exposed to heat, the fibers expand, closing the spaces between them insulating the wearer. But to work correctly, Nomex® needs proper care.
- Wash Nomex® like normal laundry, but always include a rinse cycle that adequately removes soaps and detergents.
- Nomex® garments should never be subjected to strong oxidizing agents such as peroxides or bleaches. These products harm the physical strength of the fabric.
- Tumble dry and remove while slightly damp. Over-drying damages the fabric.
Poison Oak/Ivy/Sumac on Nomex®
National Technology and Development Program (NTDP) conducted research on laundering Nomex® firefighting clothing that has been contaminated with urushiol oil (what causes the rash) from poison oak/ivy/sumac exposure.
- NTDP recommends that fire clothing contaminated with urushiol oil be cleaned following normal Nomex® laundering procedures, with a degreaser such as a detergent or a laundry soap, and as soon as possible.
- Extra care should be exercised when handling the contaminated clothing, and it should be kept separate from unaffected clothing and equipment.
- Put the affected clothing in a marked bag if you are giving it to someone else to wash. Before handling the affected clothing, apply a skin-barrier product such as Ivy Block or Technu®.
Flammable contaminants will reduce the thermal performance of any flame-resistant garment including Nomex®.
- Proper and periodic cleaning is essential to maintain thermal protective performance.
Action Item -
Nomex® is not effective if it is excessively dirty, fuel-soaked, or has holes. Does your Nomex® need to be washed, repaired, or replaced?
A 2008 SAFENET corrective action filed by the US Forest Service regarding poison oak reactions experienced by firefighters during the 2008 fire season in California.
Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR)
10 Standard Firefighting Orders, PMS 110
18 Watch Out Situations, PMS 118
10 & 18 Poster, PMS 110-18
NWCG Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461
RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)
Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book)
Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center