Study Shows that Healthcare Workers Should Not Launder Scrubs at Home

It is fairly routine for healthcare facilities to require workers to provide their own uniforms. Whether it is doctors, nurses or support staff, employees purchase their own uniforms and wash them at home. However, that may not be the best idea. A new study from Germany shows that washing hospital uniforms at home may not be suitable to prevent the spread of germs.

One of the reasons Alsco offers hospital linen and uniform washing is because we know what kinds of germs can be spread within the health care environment. Our washing process is designed to produce hygienically clean linens, not linens that only appear clean to the naked eye. Hygienically clean uniforms are free from bacteria and pathogens that could otherwise create big problems in a healthcare environment.

Residential Washing Machines Don’t Cut It

A residential washing machine is fine for most residential uses. It’s not like people are encountering dangerous pathogens while out and about doing their daily routine. But hospital workers do not have that luxury. The hospital environment is rife with all sorts of dangerous germs.

With that knowledge, note that the previously mentioned study out of the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences in Mönchengladbach, Germany, looked closely at how efficiently residential washing machines clean hospital workwear uniforms. What they found was troubling to say the least.

Researchers proved that residential washing machines do not get hot enough for a long enough time to effectively deal with germs like E. coli, staph, MRSA and salmonella. The research paper, written by expert Professor Lutz Vossebein, made a point of mentioning superbugs as being problematic for residential washing machines. This is important given how serious a threat superbugs now are in many healthcare facilities.

The Problem with Residential Machines

Professor Vossebein documented just how hot residential washing machines get nowadays. Thanks to energy-saving measures now built in to washing machines, the average residential machine never reaches the 140°F required to kill the most dangerous germs. And even among those that do reach a high enough temperature, the temperature is not maintained long enough to be effective at sanitizing.

Vossebein also discovered that, due to various temperature and time profiles, there is too much variation between washing machines to expect them to be reliable enough to deal with viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. For the record, Vossebein’s research has the backing of the European Textile Services Association.

Professional Laundering Is the Best Option

It is clear from Vossebein’s research that professionally laundering hospital uniforms is the best option for killing germs. In a day and age when the modern health care facility must constantly worry about dangers like staph infections and MRSA, it just makes no sense to expect hospital workers to launder their uniforms at home. It is not a safe practice.

Professional laundering involves a combination of high heat, time and antimicrobial cleaning solutions capable of killing and removing multiple pathogens. When done correctly, professional laundering produces hygienically clean uniforms that do not spread dangerous bugs like staph and MRSA.

We understand why hospitals and other medical facilities have staff members buy their own uniforms and wash them at home; it is a cost-cutting measure. But think about the potential cost increases associated with people returning to the doctor for additional care because they got sick in a health care environment.

In the long run, hygienically clean medical uniforms reduce the cost of healthcare by more effectively eliminating germs and pathogens. The less people are exposed to these germs and pathogens, the less likely they are to get sick. Less sickness means lower healthcare costs across the board. HealthAssure® by Alsco is HLAC and TRSA certified to provide hygienically clean healthcare linen and workwear.

Sources:

  • TRSA – https://www.trsa.org/news/home-wash-hazards-german-researcher-documents-risks/