17th August 2020 Laundering of cleaning textiles and recommendations for cleaning laundry facilities.

Long gone are the days of boiling water, green block soap, bleach and scrubbing boards. But how far has the laundry industry come in 2020. In this paper I focus on cleaning textiles inclusive of but not limited to multiple use surface cloths, floor cloths, mops and dusters.

With current technology including machines, laundry detergents/solutions and processes are high temperature washes still necessary? The suggestion that 90 degree or boil washes are the best is based on the idea that `hot water cleans better than cold water´. However advances in cleaning cloth material, detergents/solutions and alternative laundry processes means we must challenge the 90 degree wash practice.

There is little evidence regarding laundering of cleaning cloths other than the manufacturers instructions but it must be noted that in order to clean, a cloth must be clean. Cleaning cloths are designed to be used in dirty, wet and infected areas to remove physical dirt, protein matter (including bacteria and viruses) and general dust.

There are no national or international standards on the laundering of cleaning cloths/products other than what manufacturers recommend with their product.

I searched the internet with key words including cleaning cloths, low temperature, laundry, economical, ecological and reduced water and energy consumption. I do not endorse any of the products named in this document as it is solely on the user to decide which laundry system is most appropriate for their use. The results generated hundreds of sites of which I randomly chose 3.

Ecolab laundry offers a low temperature laundry detergent – Eltra, which according to Ecolab is a biocidal detergent for use in the disinfection washing of textiles including cotton, mixed fabrics and synthetics. It is recommended for use in healthcare, hospitality, catering and multiple hygiene sensitive areas for laundering a multitude of materials including cleaning cloths and mops. Eltra is listed for thermo-chemical laundry disinfection at 60 degrees as per the Robert Koch Institute and Ecolab states that Eltra is effective against Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), hepatitis, Norovirus and other pathogenic viral diarrhoeas.

By the same token Kreussler Laundry produce Trebon SI – a chemothermal laundry disinfection powder detergent used with peracetic acid Ottalin Peracet (peroxyacetic acid better known as peracetic acid is an antimicrobial but mild bleaching agent which also prevents biofilm formation). With a reaction time of no more than 10 minutes at 60 degrees it also meets the requirement for a listing in the disinfectant list of the Robert Kock Institute (RKI) according to Type A (bacteria) and Type B (viruses) in washing machines.

Another laundry wash system is the use of ozone, however this is a specialist system which requires specific machine installation. Ozone carries an electrical and chemical charge in the washing solution which dissolves soil and dirt on contact and is achieved in cold water. Ozone also increases the life span of textiles, reduces energy and water costs, offers shorter wash cycles and shorter drying times. This process however can be expensive to purchase and/or install, but highly effective and cost saving during operation as cold water is used throughout.

Whichever laundry solution is preferred by the user there are other things to consider including location, type of machine and use. Domestic laundry is not considered in this paper; hospitality and healthcare are considered.

In my previous job role as an Infection Prevention and Control Nurse Specialist, I had responsibility for both an on site and off site laundry. Both sites had industrial front loading washing and drying machines situated within 1 room. This set up posed several issues including segregation of laundry and laundering both infected and non-infected laundry.

In 2013  Health Technical Memorandum 01/04 included the segregation of laundry within healthcare but the principles of this document can be applied to any and all laundry facilities. Laundry must be sorted and segregated accordingly. Soiled textiles  must be segregated from non-soiled, infected laundry must be segregated from non-infected laundry and overall, clean laundry must be segregated from dirty laundry but this can be difficult to achieve in one room.

A one room laundry facility must utilize a pathway system of designated and visibly marked areas working from dirty to clean so there is a reduced risk of contamination from dirty to clean. However it is not just about segregation of laundry, other factors to consider are the type of machine and having a cleaning schedule of not just the area but also the laundry equipment.

One option is the tunnel washer which utilizes an Archimedes screw mechanism to propel the dirty laundry through the machine towards a clean end. The machine in itself is designed that dirty and clean segregation of laundry is possible without the risk of contamination. Although considered to be the best this type of washer is considered quite aggressive for the laundering of cleaning textiles.  A “pony barrier washer” also achieves total segregation as it is built into a wall accessible from both a clean and dirty side.

These 2 systems can be costly to purchase, install and the user may not have the space or room design to accommodate such a system.

The majority of professional or industrial laundry users still have front loading washing and drying machines. This system is challenging as dirty laundry is loaded into same machine as clean laundry is removed.

A stringent cleaning schedule must be utilized including the user/operator wearing gloves and apron when loading and unloading the machine. Cleaning laundry equipment must also include the wiping of the washing machine door portal inclusive of the inside of the door and rubber seal with detergent or alcohol hard surface wipes every time the machine is loaded with laundry, this prevents the cleaned laundry touching the dirty portal on removal and reduces the risk of contamination. The control panel of the machine must also be cleaned using a separate detergent or alcohol hard surfaces wipe after every loading of the machine as the operator/user has to touch the panel in order to operate the machine. It is also advisable to run an empty cycle at the end of the day so that all dirty water is removed from the machine.

Helen Levers

Retired Registered General Nurse,

Bachelor of Science Honors Degree.

Independent Infection, Prevention and Control Nurse Specialist