Disposable vs. Reusable Isolation Gowns: Which is Better?
Unpredictable supply shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care professionals have required new strategies in the selection and management of PPE, which typically includes eye protection, face masks and shields, gloves, head and shoe coverings, and isolation gowns. The so-called “surge capacity” status initiated at the onset of the pandemic continues to the present time. One finding that emerged amongst all the medical supply chain disruptions in recent years is the efficacy of reusable medical isolation gowns.
Read on to explore the benefits of washable isolation gowns.
Why Choose Reusable Isolation Gowns?
Identified as the second-most-used piece of PPE1 following gloves, isolation gowns work to protect health care workers from potentially contaminated bodily fluids. Medical facilities should choose reusable isolation gowns because they have measurable performance advantages over disposable gowns, according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC)2.
ImageFIRST, the nation's leading healthcare linen provider, offers an AAMI-rated level 2 isolation gown that meets a higher standard as a solution for providers looking to provide staff with quality personal protective gowns.
Learn More about Reusable Isolation Gowns for Your Facility
Washable Isolation Gown Benefits Found in the AJIC Study
The October 2020 study from AJIC, “Disposable versus reusable medical gowns: A performance comparison” measures how disposable and reusable medical isolation gowns performed across tests that included water resistance, hydrostatic pressure (pressure exerted by a fluid at rest due to the force of gravity), and durability assessments. The study’s water resistance chart3 shows the average impact penetration of reusable gowns after 1, 25, 50, and 75 industrial launderings, in addition to the average impact penetration of new disposable gowns. In all tests, reusable gowns outperformed disposable gowns.
One of the points in the study’s findings spoke to the durability and economy of reusable isolation gowns (vs. disposable for example):
“To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study of its kind to assess the performance of reusable gowns over their wash life. These findings support the durability of reusable gowns, making them more economical than disposable gowns and providing greater protection for HCWs (health care workers). This is especially important in times of PPE shortages, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, for which the CDC recommended the use of cloth gowns.”4
A Case for More Comfortable Healthcare Apparel
Included on the list of washable isolation gown benefits is comfort. The AJIC-published study states “thermal comfort is one of the top gown performance features that are likely to discourage healthcare worker compliance with wearing appropriate PPE.” It continued that while disposable gowns are anecdotally “known for” being comfortable, previous studies demonstrated that in shorter durations, “…reusable gowns are preferred for wearer comfort.”
Partnering with a Provider for Infection Control
Medical linen is the most touched hospital supply item. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ensuring medical laundry is at least hygienically clean is crucial to minimizing the spread of pathogens. Industry laundry experts, such as ImageFIRST, ensure their wash processes go beyond being hygienically clean in operating to these certifications or accreditations. In addition to an isolation gown program, ImageFIRST has full-service scrub and lab coat offerings with all personal protective apparel laundered to these standards in their healthcare linen-only facilities.
ImageFIRST offers high-quality reusable medical isolation gowns, that provide staff protection from the transfer of microorganisms, bodily fluids, and particulate matter with fabric that is lightweight and fluid-repellent, with a 99 percent polyester front panel, blue polyester knit cuffed sleeves, adjustable neck snaps, overlap back and color-matched back waist ties. Its AORN-compliant laundering has earned critical certifications to verify its compliance with infection prevention protocols. Learn more about ImageFIRST's infection prevention protocol here.
ImageFIRST Has Infection Prevention Solutions.
2 Disposable versus reusable medical gowns: A performance comparison
3 Disposable versus reusable medical gowns: A performance comparison, p.5, Fig. 1
4 Disposable versus reusable medical gowns: A performance comparison, p.7, Impact of laundering on reusable gowns