Since the emergence of Covid-19 in the UK, care homes have found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being thrust under a harsh public spotlight. Outbreaks within homes necessitated the implementation of stringent measures to ensure resident safety that included rigorous social distancing, heightened sanitation and rugged PPE.
However, these intrusive measures, as vital as they have been and continue to be, risk being undermined by the most unlikely source – washing machines.
Laundry hygiene is of course a priority in the vast majority of care homes, but too few recognise just how fundamental it is to preventing infection. Incorrect handling, processing and storage of linen in particular, all present an unnecessary risk. Several recently published reports have detailed how inadequate laundering of textiles in healthcare has been the direct cause of outbreaks.
As care home residents are vulnerable to infection, it is critical that care homes ensure that they, as well as their carers and visitors, are protected on all fronts.
COST AND COMPLIANCE
Though care homes strive to create environments that are as homely as possible, they are still commercial premises in the eyes of the law. From a purely financial perspective, this means that warranties on domestic washing machines are voided where they are used in care homes, resulting in significant costs for fixes and replacements if a machine becomes damaged.
Moreover, very few domestic machines are approved by the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) for the processing of infected linen. This is because they do not have backflow protection to prevent a soiled load contaminating the water supply with bacteria and viruses. As this is a UK requirement, care homes using domestic washing machines could be contravening water regulations.
BRINGING THE HEAT
The high heat of commercial washing machines not only remove stains, but ensures any harmful microorganisms present in each load are killed. As domestic machines are designed primarily for energy savings, they are not equipped with the heater elements found in commercial machines that can maintain enough heat to penetrate a full load and achieve total disinfection.
The Department of Health’s HTM 01-04 Decontamination of Linen for Health & Social Care states that a traditional thermal disinfection cycle can either be 71oC for 11 minutes or 65oC for 18 minutes. Domestic machines offer no guarantees that a cycle will achieve (let alone hold) these temperatures, meaning disinfection cannot be achieved.
Of course, multiple washes throughout the day at such high temperatures places a burden on utility budgets, but even here there is an alternative.
Care homes can opt for machines which use natural chemical disinfection to achieve deeply cleaned, softer fabrics but which operate at low much lower temperatures. JLA’s OTEX laundry disinfection machine does just this – the patented technology eradicates harmful microorganisms in every wash and even prints validation receipts to prove disinfection has been attained. And by pre-programming cycles, it can be guaranteed that every wash, on whichever programme a member of staff selects, achieves full disinfection.
When only the best will do, choose JLA as your trusted partner. To find out more on OTEX and our SMART laundry systems, as well as catering, heating and fire safety equipment call us on 0800 591 903 or go to www.jla.com