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Thermal Disinfection: Definition, Processes And Tools For The Care Sector

Whilst care homes aim to deliver fast cleaning of linen, as well as delicate handling of residents’ personal garments, there is one element above all that those in hospital and healthcare environments must be able to deliver: thermal disinfection.

Here, Amanda Dufrane, Care Segment Manager for Electrolux Professional, explains more.

Laundry practice in the care sector can act as the gateway to infection outbreak, or infection prevention. While it might not be for the faint hearted, the fact of the matter is that soiled linen is likely to come into contact with any manner of bodily fluids; some of which could contain very harmful microbes or bacteria such as Clostridium difficile (C-diff) or MRSA. So, when it comes to handling soiled laundry, thermal disinfection – coupled with a proper laundry cycle management system – is the overarching way to stop the spread of infection in its tracks.

But what does thermal disinfection really mean?

In short, it is the use of above-average wash temperatures for a set cycle time to ensure any potentially infections microbes are killed. This can be done in a number of ways, such as 93°C for one minute, 71°C for three minutes, or 65°C for at least ten minutes. However, wash cycles which are neither hot enough nor long enough will not be able to fully destroy the potentially infectious bacteria.

What processes can care home laundry operators employ to guarantee thermal disinfection?

While some sites continue to outsource their laundry, doing so risks linen being exposed to a number of different contaminants, above and beyond those found between the four walls of the care home. Crucially, operators do not have full control of the transportation process, so in all honesty can have no guarantee that outsourced laundry is cleaned to the required standards.

As such, all care homes should employ an on-premises laundry, to ensure that all linen is washed in line with infection control laundry guidelines.

Avoiding recontamination of freshly washed laundry is also essential for preventing infection. One of the safest ways to achieve this is to employ a barrier washing system, which ensures that items are loaded from one side of the machine when dirty and unloaded from a separate, clean side when the wash cycle is complete. This eliminates the need for operators to re-enter an unhygienic environment and, consequently, minimises the risk of linen being re-contaminated once it has been cleaned.

However, operators can also gain further piece of mind by employing tools that can validate the wash temperatures of each cycle.

Electrolux Professional’s Temp°Check is one such process validation tool which enables operators to check that full thermal disinfection has taken place, and can store Validation Reports for up to 1,000 cycles. Not only does this ensure care homes can comply with HTM 01-04 guidance, but it also means that operators can ensure their processes and equipment are running as efficiently and possible.

Ultimately, laundry practice for care and social care sites can be make or break when it comes to preventing infection. Given the high volume of potential contaminants likely to find their way into linen, failing to achieve full thermal disinfection could easily pave the way for future outbreaks.
For more information, please visit: professional.electrolux.co.uk.

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