Choosing the right cleaning materials for infection control

Finding the most effective, efficient and cost-conscious cleaning regime is a broad task. We zoom into the comparison of type of cleaning materials and the impact on hospital cleanliness

As one of the first few private hospitals in Thailand to receive Hospital Accreditation (HA), the accreditation scheme covering both public and private hospitals in the country, Mission Hospital prides itself on its high safety and quality standards.

Patient safety has become a top priority in recent years, according to the hospital. This includes a heightened focus on medication safety through patient identification, medication alert system and so on– and also by looking closely at the prevention of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).

“We have written protocols and guidelines for general cleaning to ensure that all areas of the environment are regularly cleaned to a satisfactory standard,” said the hospital’s infection control unit.

“And the staff members that are responsible for cleaning should understand and follow the protocols, and be able to access to adequate resources and equipment to meet the required standard of cleaning.”

Differences between cotton and microfibre cloths

To maintain such a strict cleaning regime requires detailed planning, from allocating sufficient manpower resources, to selecting the best equipment or tools for the tasks.

One often seen, but rarely thought about aspect of cleaning, is the cleaning cloth used by housekeepers to wipe down surfaces and medical devices or equipment. In fact, the type of cloths or wipes used can have a significant impact on cleaning efficacy.

While cotton cloths have been traditionally used for cleaning, more facilities have moved to adopt microfibre cloths over the years.

The difference is that while cotton is a natural fibre, microfibre is a composite synthetic blend of polyester, nylon, or a combination of the two. The individual microfibre strands are very fine, thus creating more surface area in each cloth for collecting and trapping microscopic particles and liquids more effectively and efficiently; and also reaching into tiny, invisible crevices in surfaces, that are inaccessible to conventional materials. Studies have shown that microfibre cloths can remove 99.7% or more of tested pathogens. Consequently, the use of microfibre cloths can form a key part of hospitals’ infection control strategy.

“We use microfibre cloths for cleaning, which are becoming more popular and widely recognised as the standard choice,” said Mission Hospital. “Microfibre has become well-known for its quality in cleaning process.”

The hospital shared that it classified its cloths based on colours, according to the cleaning requirements of the area.

For example, green cloths are for general surface and environment cleaning, while blue ones are for cleaning of glass surfaces or materials. Yellow cloths are used to clean frequently touched and potentially contaminated surfaces such as sinks, bed tables, chair arms, etc. Lastly, red cloths are used for cleaning toilets and areas with high infection risks.

But even within the category of microfibre, there are different options available: disposable one-time microfibre wipes, or reusable cloths which can be laundered for repeated use.

The hospital shared that it uses both disposable and reusable microfibre products for its different cleaning needs– both for general cleaning and disinfection of potentially contaminated areas. Disposable wipes are convenient to use and reduce risk of cross-contamination as new wipes are used for each cleaning task or area. On the other hand, reusable cloths are colour-coded to ensure each cloth is only used for a specific purpose or area, preventing transmission of pathogens. High-quality reusable microfibre cloths are proven to last up to 500 commercial launderings, and up to 200 launderings with bleach, with no changes to its efficacy. Thus, they can be a cost-effective option for hospitals.

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