Although researchers now know that WNS is spread primarily bat to bat, there is still a small chance that humans may accidentally transport the WNS from one cave to another. As a result, please be very careful with any gear that you use in Alabama caves, especially now that WNS is in northeast Alabama. Please decontaminate your gear before every cave trip. If you aren’t planning to decontaminate, please wash your gear in a washing machine before and after each trip to make sure your gear is at least clean.
NEW DECON TECHNIQUE! You may now soak your gear in hot water that is 122 degrees F (or 50 degrees C) for at least 15 minutes to decontaminate your gear. This method is MUCH easier and cheaper than past methods. Scroll down for details.
We realize that the FWS gear decon guidelines are confusing, so this page provides some streamlined decon “recipes” to hopefully make the gear decontamination process easier for you. If you want to review the FWS decon procedures first, here they are:
You can also visit a YouTube channel with instructions for gear decon.
Step One: Get the Mud Off!
In layman’s terms, the way to start the decontamination process is to knock off as much excess mud as you can while you’re still at the cave entrance. Go back to your vehicle, get out a big trash bag and put everything in it. Seal it up and take it home.
Step Two: Wash Your Gear
Pre-clean your gear by hosing it down really well, trying to get all of the mud off. Use a soap solution (Pour 7 capfuls or 4 tablespoons of Woolite into one gallon of water) and scrub brush as needed and rinse with the hose. Then run it through the washing machine (use Woolite again and follow the label directions). After your gear is washed clean, soak your gear in one of the following decon recipes.
Step Three: Decon
Use one of the following methods to make sure WNS fungus and spores are dead!
You may now soak your gear in hot water that is 122 degrees F (or 50 degrees C) for at least 15 minutes to decontaminate your gear. Many people have started to experiment with easy ways to soak gear in hot water. You may review a discussion about this technique on CaveChat. Many washing machines will heat up water to more than 122F IF you make sure your hot water heater is set high enough.
1. Get a thermometer that is reliable in hot water.
2. Put your gear in your washing machine and fill the machine with hot water.
3. Check the temperature periodically for 15 minutes to make sure the water gets above 122F and STAYS above 122F for at least 15 minutes.
4. If the water isn’t hot enough, adjust your hot water heater and try it again. Most hot water heaters have a small dial on the side where you can adjust the temperature. Consult your water heater user’s manual before changing the settings. In general, make sure to turn off the circuit breaker to the water heater before changing anything. Also look and see if there’s a Reset button you should press. After changing the hot water heater settings, fill up your washing machine again and check the water temperature for at least 15 minutes.
NOTE: You MUST make sure the water will get hot enough for this technique to work. If your water doesn’t get hot enough, you’ll have to use another method or try another way to get water hot enough for 15 minutes.
5. When you know that your water temperature is adequate for this method, deconning your gear is easy. If your washing machine doesn’t have a “soak” cycle, you can simply fill up your washing machine with hot water and turn it off. Put all of your gear in the hot water. You can add your vertical gear, clothes, kneepads, rope, helmet, boots, and anything that isn’t a sensitive electronic.
6. Soak your gear for at least 15 minutes. Longer won’t hurt. Check the water temperature periodically and make sure it’s above 122F.
7. When the soak is done, you may remove all of the items and let them dry. You may also just remove the large, bulky items, leave your clothing in the washing machine, and continue the wash cycle like normal.
8. You can reset your hot water heater to a lower temperature when you’re done. Just be sure to turn it back up the next time you need to decon!
Please NOTE: Dishwashers have NOT been tested. Dishwashers do not submerge gear, only get gear hot and wet. Some people say they’re cleaning gear in their dishwashers, but don’t do that until researchers know for sure it works. Besides, dishwashers are for dishes!
Lysol® Brand I.C.™ Quaternary Disinfectant Cleaner:
This is a concentrated product that you dilute with water. You will have to find this product, sometimes Lowe’s or Home Depot sell it, but you usually can’t find it at your grocery store. See below for Alabama suppliers or click here to search your area.
Add 2 tablespoons to one gallon of water to make a solution. Completely submerge your gear for 10 minutes then rinse really well [if the smell of the product bothers you, you can re-machine wash your gear]. Hang your gear in the shade to dry.
You can re-use this product if it has not become muddy (if it becomes muddy, you have not throughly washed your gear). You can even put some of this solution in a spray bottle to use on any gear that you wouldn’t want to submerge. Please dispose of the used solution as you would any household cleaning product.
Bleach labeled 5.25 – 6.0% (look at the front of the bottle):
You can find this at the grocery store, Wal-Mart, Target, etc.
The guidelines state that household bleach should be diluted to 10% of its concentration. As household bleach can range in concentrations from 5.25% to 6.0% sodium hypochlorite, the resulting solutions will range from 5250 to 6000 parts sodium hypochlorite. Be careful as the higher the concentration, the more the solution can harm your gear and/or skin. The guidelines state you should make this solution by adding 1 part bleach to 9 parts water (for example: place 9 cups of water in to a bucket and add 1 cup bleach).
Completely submerge your gear for 10 minutes, then rinse and air dry [you can re-machine wash your gear too]. You cannot re-use bleach, heat and sunlight make it worthless. Please dispose of your bleach solution as you would any household cleaning product.
Professional Lysol® Brand Antibacterial All Purpose Cleaner:
You will have to find this product, sometimes Lowe’s or Home Depot sell it, but you usually can’t find it at your grocery store. See below for Alabama suppliers or click here to search your area.
This product does not need to be diluted and you can use it right out of the jug or place some in a spray bottle. This is a good option for items that are not waterproof. Keep on the surface of the item for 10 minutes, then rinse well and air dry.
Formula 409® Antibacterial All-Purpose Cleaner:
You can find this at the grocery store in a squirt bottle. It is at the correct concentration and you can use the product right out of the bottle. This is a good option for items that are not waterproof. Keep on the surface of the item for 10 minutes, then rinse well and air dry.
Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes
You can find these wipes at most stores. Use wipes on equipment that you can’t get wet, such as cameras.
Non-Chemical Method – Boiling:
After washing your gear, boil it for 15 minutes at a “fast” boil and air dry.
Lysol® Brand I.C.™ Quaternary Disinfectant Cleaner and Professional Lysol® Brand Antibacterial All Purpose Cleaner:
117 Allen Ave
Andalusia, AL 36420
1221 Pinson St
Birmingham, AL 35217
2923 5th Ave South
Birmingham, AL 35233
Motion Industries Inc
1605 Alton Rd
Birmingham, AL 35210
Wood Fruitticher Grocery
2900 Alton Rd
Birmingham, AL 35210
Alabama Paper & Supply
736 Armory St
Goodwater, AL 35072
1120 Emory Folmar Blvd.
Montgomery, AL 36110
1209 Fort Lashley Avenue
Talladega, AL 35160
1209 Ft. Lashley Ave
Talladega, AL 35160