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Cleaning and Decon – Don’t Forget Your Boots!

Boot Cleaning and Decon

Firefighters, EMTs and Law Enforcement professionals can be exposed to blood, bodily fluids, and viruses while on the job. Many first responders wonder what they should do if their boots get exposed to blood or bodily fluids, especially those of a potentially infectious patient. While nothing can 100% guarantee non-transmission of different pathogens, or the 100% elimination of viruses from your footwear, this article can provide guidance on keeping yourself protected regarding your footwear.

When dealing with leather fire and/or EMS boots, most cleaning can be done with a soft cloth or brush and mild soap and water. But, if you have had a potential exposure to a chemical, virus, bacteria, or fungus, HAIX has some recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting your footwear. Remove footwear from service until it can be cleaned and disinfected. (Please note this pertains to exposures to the exterior of your boots and not direct exposure to the interior of your boots or inner liner). Universal precautions should be used when handling and cleaning footwear. At a minimum, protective gloves certified to NFPA 1999 but also consider wearing an apron with sleeves and/or a respirator.

After cleaning your boots with warm water and a mild soap, HAIX recommends decontamination of the exterior leather and the outsoles with a disinfectant spray that is strong enough to kill the most dangerous viruses, yet safe enough to use on children’s toys. Disinfectants used on HAIX boots need to have an EPA IV toxicity rating; the lowest rating assigned by the Federal EPA; it should be rated to not cause skin irritation associated with traditional disinfectants. This would be safest for the leather. Using too strong a disinfectant could damage the leather and weaken the threads used in construction.

The disinfectant must be strong enough to kill the most dangerous viruses (Norovirus) and bacteria (MRSA) in a hospital environment, and EPA registered for use on children's toys at home. Disinfectant spray should also meet the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) criteria for use against the spread of COVID-19 and be registered by the EPA to kill human Coronavirus with its demonstrated effectiveness against these pathogens. Disinfectant should contain no alcohol, bleach, or other toxic ingredients. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for cleaning and decontamination use.

Once boots are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, allow the boots to air dry in natural light away from artificial heat sources. Force drying leather with heat or in direct sunlight can shrink the leather and damage its protective properties. Once boots are thoroughly dry, it is recommended to use a leather conditioner to keep leather moisturized, soft and supple. A good quality, silicone-based polish will condition the leather without clogging the leather’s pores, allowing the natural breathability of the leather to be maintained. Petroleum based products may be flammable and may significantly reduce the flame and heat resistance of your firefighting footwear. HAIX polish was specifically developed for firefighting and EMS footwear in order to maintain the protective features of the boots and extend their useful life to the fullest extent possible. Take care of your boots and they will take care of you.

HAIX has more information on boot cleaning, inspection, and retirement of your HAIX NFPA footwear here.

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