Don’t overlook the humble hospital cleaning cart

Cleaning carts are a common fixture in hospital wards and corridors, but usually go unnoticed. However, safe usage of appropriate carts is a key element in the overall infection control process

As a hospital accredited by both MSQH (Malaysian Society for Quality in Health) and JCI (Joint Commission International), Penang Adventist Hospital (PAH) prides itself on its high standards for quality and cleanliness.

From the start of the pandemic, the hospital set aside a dedicated Quarantine Zone catering specifically to patients with fever or flu-like symptoms. Terminal cleaning is conducted daily in this zone, with wipe downs of individual areas after each use. Individual COVID test swab booths have been deployed to ensure a safe and sterilised environment for the testing process.

Besides these areas though, close attention has been paid to an often overlooked area – the cleaning carts. Also called the janitorial or housekeeping carts, these allow cleaning staff to carry and safely manage all the essential cleaning supplies and equipment they need for their work.

Best practices for cleaning carts

While these carts are easily spotted in hospitals when cleaning is taking place, most of us may not stop to consider the safe practices that need to be in place to ensure these carts are used appropriately.

These carts are usually stocked with multiple supplies (for example mops, cleaning cloths, disinfecting solutions). This helps avoid the need for staff to return to the utility or housekeeping rooms for more supplies, in the middle of cleaning a particular patient care area.

The US CDC has a list of best practices and guidelines for use of cleaning carts in the healthcare setting, one of which is to clearly separate clean and soiled items (for example, cloths before and after use) in different bags, to avoid cross-contamination.

Another best practice is the need for lockable compartments. “We make sure that cleaning and disinfectant solutions are kept secured and locked in the carts, and dilution of chemicals, where required, are done in the utility rooms,” said PAH. PAH cleaning staff are also trained to always keep the carts in sight and never unattended. These measures mitigate the risk of unintended exposure of potentially harmful chemicals to staff and patients.

The carts are thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day, before they are stored in designated areas that are similarly secured.

With most Malaysian hospitals outsourcing housekeeping and cleaning services to external companies, hospitals need to make sure that these outsourced staff meet the high standards of cleaning required of them. PAH shared that their cleaning supervisors perform regular checks on work standards, ensuring that cleaning staff are aware and closely adhere to all cleaning and disinfection SOPs.

Checks are also done on the amount of supplies stocked in the cart. The hospital has come up with a standard amount of each item – e.g. a box of gloves, a certain amount of cloths and mop heads – to be stocked in the cart before the start of each round of cleaning. This ensures staff do not understock and have to make multiple trips to the utility room to top up supplies, and also do not overstock and skew the inventory numbers (leading to ordering more than what is needed).

The correct cleaning cart equipment will allow hospitals to follow these best practices. Carts need to be designed to have sufficient storage space, so cleaning staff spend less time retrieving supplies and more time completing the task at hand. Having lockable security hood and cabinet doors keep supplies concealed from view and locked up when unattended, to prevent unintended access.

One such example is Rubbermaid Commercial Products’ line of high-security carts designed for storing and moving cleaning supplies, waste and safety items from room to room within healthcare facilities. For more information on the features of these carts, view an informative video here: