Defense Date


Document Type

Directed Research Project

First Advisor

Lisa Schwenk

Second Advisor

Eric Hazelrigg

Third Advisor

Dr. Joseph Turner


Ignitable liquids such as gasoline and diesel fuel are common accelerants encountered by Certified Fire Investigators (CFIs). These ignitable liquids can be identified by gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy; the presence of particular peaks in appropriate abundances and patterns indicates the presence of compounds found in ignitable liquids. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) issues clothing to its CFIs for wear during fire scene investigation. Previous research has identified a method to decontaminate the tools used by CFIs, but no explicit protocol to decontaminate scene clothing has been determined. This study investigated the use of Tide Ultra Stain Release, Persil ProClean Stain Fighter and Persil ProClean Stain Fighter Power Caps along with rigorous washing machine and dryer conditions to decontaminate 100% cotton fabrics (t-shirt material and ATF-issued pants) and 90:10 cotton:polyester ATF-issued shirts spiked with a Standard Accelerant Mixture (SAM, 1:1 gasoline:diesel fuel). Samples were collected in epoxy-lined metal paint-type cans and extracted using activated charcoal strips overnight at 60 °Celsius. The volatile compounds were then eluted from the charcoal strips using a small amount of carbon disulfide. The resulting liquid was then run on a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer using a method consistent with the ATF fire debris method. The first phase of this study aimed to establish a method to prevent cross-contamination between wash and dry cycles for all three detergents using 100% cotton broadcloth. It was determined that two wash cycles with Tide Ultra Stain Release and two dry cycles were sufficient. The second phase aimed to determine a procedure to sufficiently remove ignitable liquids in trace and gross amounts beyond the point of identification using all three detergents and 100% cotton t-shirt material. One and two dry cycles were also investigated. It was determined that trace amounts could be sufficiently removed with a single dry cycle using Tide Ultra Stain Release and Persil ProClean Stain Fighter. In the third phase, the effectiveness of the previously established procedures were tested on ATF-issued 100% cotton fire scene clothing and 90:10 cotton:polyester shirts, in small and moderate load sizes, with trace amounts of SAM. This study found that under rigorous washing and drying conditions trace amounts of SAM could be sufficiently removed from ATF-issued clothing of both fabric types using Tide Ultra Stain Release and Persil ProClean Stain Fighter.


© The Author(s)

Is Part Of

VCU Master of Science in Forensic Science Directed Research Projects

Date of Submission