Feature 5 Questions

5 Questions to Ask Your Laundry Provider to Ensure Infection Prevention

Have You Asked These 5 Questions to Your Medical Laundry Provider?

Keeping your patients and staff safe necessitates a robust infection prevention plan and patient safety program, which linen should be part of. It is crucial to understand what cleaning processes your laundry provider prioritizes to ensure your facility is achieving its infection prevention goals.

Whether you are considering changing your healthcare facility’s laundry and linen provider, or you are simply curious about what you should be cognizant of when your linen is being delivered, these five questions should help guide you when discussing infection prevention with your laundry supplier.

ImageFIRST’s fully managed linen programs include quality assurance and infection prevention processes that exceed industry standards. When you partner with ImageFIRST, you gain peace of mind knowing we go above and beyond to keep your patients safe.

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"How are my linens transported from your facility to mine?”

Ensure that your medical linens are not only laundered appropriately but are transported to guarantee they are as clean when they leave their facility as when they arrive at yours. Delivery vehicles and laundry carts should be regularly sanitized to prevent contamination of clean linen and all linen should be wrapped in plastic to prevent exposure to contaminants.

“How can I ensure my isolation gowns are truly protecting my staff?”

Isolation gowns offer varying levels of protection from bodily fluids and potentially infectious material. Understanding what level of protection your isolation gowns offer you is a great first step, but protection doesn’t stop there. Isolation gowns are designed to be fluid-resistant, but if your laundry provider isn’t replenishing its fluid repellency with each wash, over time, your gowns could become less effective and not pass strike-through tests (STT). Not only is it vital to have this replenished with every wash to ensure protection, but as with most garments, the material may degrade over time. Ensure your laundry provider tracks the number of times each isolation gown is laundered and discards them after the limit has been reached.

“Do you launder privacy curtains?”

Privacy, or cubicle curtains, are some of the most frequently touched surfaces in a hospital or healthcare facility. Healthcare staff commonly touches or adjusts the curtains while providing care to patients – but this small gesture could pose a risk to your infection prevention process. Studies show that as much as 40% of HAIs can be traced to the contamination of healthcare workers’ hands[1]. It is vital that your laundry and linen provider not only replaces your privacy curtains regularly for you but also properly launders them in a disinfecting wash.

“Do you supply my facility with cotton or microfiber mops?” 

Microfiber mops are the superior choice for upholding your infection prevention standards, as they actually trap dirt in their fibers whereas cotton mops can spread bacteria around without absorbing it. It is also essential that your facility has enough mops to not cross-contaminate while cleaning. Mops should be changed between each patient room and should be properly laundered to prevent the further spread of bacteria. Having a fully managed mop program that ensures your housekeeping staff has a readily available supply of microfiber mops can help keep your facility safe for your staff and patients.

"What are your standards for laundering my linen?"

It is important that your laundry provider follows CDC, OSHA, HLAC, and The Joint Commission standards when washing your hospital linens. Other providers use the term “hygienically clean” to describe their wash process, but this claim is vague and does not have a specific agreed-upon definition. Verify that your linens are cleaned using a disinfecting detergent that kills 99.999% of pathogens to protect your staff and your patients. Not only is the detergent and appropriate wash temperature important for proper cleanliness but checking if a bacteriostatic softener is applied is also valuable to ensure that bacteria that land on the textile will not spread to other surfaces. Ask for proof of compliance with commercial laundering processes from your provider to safeguard your staff and patients.

By asking your laundry provider these questions, you can determine a roadmap for assessing potential risks, as well as recommendations you can take to your facility’s leadership team and current laundry provider.  Any improvements you make to your linen program’s infection prevention process can then dovetail into your facility-wide patient safety program.

How ImageFIRST Can Help

ImageFIRST Healthcare Laundry Specialists offers fully managed linen rental and laundry programs complete with comprehensive infection prevention that exceeds standards, including a laundering wash that is effective against COVID-19.

ImageFIRST’s solutions – programs for scrubs, isolation gowns, VAULTSystem inventory management system, lab coats, cubicle curtains, microfiber mops, patient gowns, bed linens, and more – answer healthcare providers’ most common challenges surrounding a linen program. These include freeing staff from linen management, superior infection prevention, staff and patient comfort, and cost control through linen management.

[1] Suleyman, G., Alangaden, G. & Bardossy, A.C. The Role of Environmental Contamination in the Transmission of Nosocomial Pathogens and Healthcare-Associated Infections. Curr Infect Dis Rep 20, 12 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11908-018-0620-2

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