Microfibre products have been touted to be more effective in cleaning and disinfection. How have they performed in hospital settings? We check in with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore on their experience so far
For hospital infection control personnel, standing guard against an invisible enemy is an ongoing battle. Virus droplets that fall on surface may stay infectious for an average of 48 hours, depending on what surfaces they land on, could remain a threat for up to several days. Researchers found that viruses “stay active longer on stainless steel, plastic and similar hard surfaces than on fabric and other soft surfaces.”
In the hospital setting, it is thus important to be aware of the possible virus “reservoirs” where germs live, such as high touch surfaces, to prevent them from being carried from one place or host to another.
Cleaning efficacy and value for cost
Many hospitals have cleaning regimes which specify higher cleaning frequency for high-touch or high-risk areas, such as door knobs, bed rails or lift buttons.
With high cleaning frequency and strict hygiene requirements to be met, hospitals will benefit from reviewing their cleaning processes and equipment to identify areas where effectiveness and costs can be improved.
For example, in terms of cleaning processes, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises cleaning – the physical action of scrubbing – to be the first step in any disinfection process. Cleaning removes materials such as dust and secretions first, before disinfectants are applied. This is so the disinfectants can come into direct contact with the microorganisms, ensuring effective inactivation of pathogens. Cleaning staff should thus be trained on the appropriate sequence of steps to be taken when performing cleaning tasks, to achieve best cleaning outcomes.
Adoption of microfibre cloths is another way to improve cleaning efficacy. Microfibre cloths are made of individual small fibres (synthetic materials such as polyester or nylon) knitted together. In particular, split-blended microfibre see each strand split into 16 separate fibres, creating much thinner strands compared to cotton fibres. With increased surface area, the microfibre strands are able to trap microscopic particles, microbes and liquids more effectively. In addition, most dust, dirt and bacteria have a negative charge, and so are naturally attracted to the positive static charge of the microfibres, optimising cleaning performance.
Singapore’s Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) is one facility which has been using microfibre cloths for hospital cleaning. “We have been using microfibre cloths for the past 10 years since KTPH opened in 2010,” said the hospital’s Environmental Services (ES) team. “This was because we recognised microfiber cloths as being more durable – they can be used for a longer period of time compared to other materials. This makes them more cost-effective.”
Microfibre cloths have been proven to last up to 500 commercial launderings, with no changes in efficacy. In addition, they can remove 99.7% or more of tested pathogens with water only – reducing water and chemical consumption required.
At KTPH, microfibre cloths are used in a wide range of cleaning activities in different areas of the hospital. “Within the patients’ rooms, microfibre cloths are used to wipe the bedframes, cabinets and window edges, whereas in the washrooms, they are used for cleaning of toilet bowls, wash basins and mirrors. In the corridors, they are used to wipe down general surfaces like doors and corridor wall guards,” the ES team shared. A range of different coloured cloths are used, with a specific colour used in each area to enable easy identification.
The hospital also uses mops with microfibre pads for cleaning of floors. Research has shown that over 90% of airborne microorganisms in buildings are due to resuspension from floors and other surfaces. Using microfibre mops thus allow removal of not just dust and dirt, but also removal of germs from the floors, breaking another potential route of virus transmission.
Over the years, KTPH’s ES team noted there is generally positive feedback from cleaning staff and supervisors on the performance of microfibre products. Staff who used cotton cloths in the past were able to compare the differences in cleaning effectiveness between the two types of cloths.
“We noticed that while cotton cloths usually leave dust and lint on the surface after wiping, microfibre cloths are able to pick up all the dirt, leaving the surface clean,” said the ES team.
With hygiene and disinfection as top priorities, hospitals need to ensure the right procedures and equipment are being used, so as to safeguard patient and staff safety. Doing so can also improve efficiency and cost effectiveness, amidst a challenging operating environment.
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