Hospitals, community clinics, and other healthcare establishments are filled with situations that concern mundane risks of potential transmissions. Surfaces including the linens used in these establishments need to be sanitized and laundered.
Common healthcare laundry includes patient bedding, staff bedding, towels, patient gowns, staff uniforms, surgical drapes, and curtains. These healthcare linens harbor pathogenic organisms. But despite the noteworthy risks and burdens, there is a need to maintain the cleanliness of these linens. Hence, healthcare staff handling the laundry have to be attentive to avoid transmission.
Large hospitals have their in-house laundry service, while small community clinics rely on laundry pickup and delivery service. Hospital staff have to do these steps first to maintain cleanliness and prevent transmission: removal, cleaning, and storage.
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Removal of Healthcare Linen
You have to ensure linens are removed and stored properly, especially if you are relying on laundry pickup and delivery service. Do not shake when removing the linen, this could aerosolize the infectious particles. Double bag the linens to ensure that staff transporting the linens are safe.
Washing or Cleaning of Healthcare Linen
Adequate sanitation and cleaning of the healthcare linen are essential. CDC and Healthcare Infection Control have provided detailed guidelines for healthcare laundering. Hence, it is important to partner with laundry service providers who have certificates on this matter.
Laundry of healthcare linens requires the right time, temperature, and disinfection process (flush, main wash, bleach, rinse, and sour). This process involves mechanical, thermal, and chemical factors. Dry cleaning process is an alternative to fabrics that might be damaged in traditional laundering and detergent washing. Hence, healthcare facilities also have to consider having this routine option. Linens, fabrics, and clothes in healthcare settings are disinfected during the laundry process. Failure to do the cleaning standards may cause issues and resist disinfection of the laundry.
If linens are laundered from an off-site laundry facility, it has to be covered during transport to prevent contamination. When the linens are delivered at the hospital, staff have to unload them promptly and properly in a manner that prevents contamination.
Storage of Healthcare Linen
It is essential to store healthcare linens within a clean linen supply room or cabinet. Healthcare workers have to be attentive to their hygiene, especially when assessing the linens in the supply room. The hands of healthcare workers are the number one mode of transmission and contamination. Hence, it is important to remind ourselves as healthcare workers to perform hand hygiene.
Although methods and storage of linens may vary, it is important to note that co-storage with soiled items and devices should be avoided. Moreover, you need to note that some healthcare textiles need to undergo sterilization before use. This is important for surgical drapes and reusable gowns.
Pathogens are everywhere in the healthcare environment. Linen is the only one of the possible potential surfaces that may transmit hospital pathogens. Hence, linens that are visibly soiled or not have to be contained, transported, disinfected, washed, and stored properly to ensure it prevents transmission.