It is no surprise that workers, patients, and their families have concerns about the coronavirus surviving on a healthcare uniform, even after uniform laundering, at home using a domestic washing machine. Many nurses, healthcare workers, and care home workers carry out uniform washing at home, but the questions remain as to whether this is the safest option for ensuring public safety.
The latest evidence suggests that some outbreaks of infectious diseases have been caused by inadequate healthcare uniform washing. The government’s current advice recommends cleaning through a commercial laundry service, but this is not law or compulsory.
The government’s advice is based on reviews conducted in 2007, long before the outbreak of Covid-19. However, new research shows that commercial operations are better equipped for washing and transporting workwear, which takes place at higher standards, compared to on-site or domestic laundering.
Government Advice On Washing A Healthcare Uniform
The government’s advice on best practices states that the uniform should be transported in a disposable plastic bag and washed in a separate load at the highest temperature. The workwear should be tumble dried or ironed.
However, the problem is if overworked, tired, and stressed workers will follow this advice. Recent research from De Montfort University (DMU) indicates that 40% of workers wash their healthcare uniform in a load with other clothing and 44% wash below 60C.
Researcher’s Advice On Healthcare Uniform Washing
Dr. Laird from DMU is advising the government that all healthcare uniforms should be laundered to commercial standards. Their research shows that microorganisms can survive on textiles for long periods, which runs the risk of taking the virus home and spreading the contagion.
The clear message from DMU is that there are huge infection control benefits to industrial laundering, and we should err on the side caution when handling clothing used in care homes and hospitals. The contagion risks are higher in home settings, where there are no designated soiled and clean areas. Washing machines often do not reach the temperature the wash is set to, so even when good intentions are in place, it is too easy to spread the Covid-19 virus.