The ongoing coronavirus crisis continues to impact businesses in just about every industry. In the commercial linen sector, there remains a great deal of concern about handling soiled hospital linens, healthcare uniforms, patient gowns, etc. In response, the CDC has issued guidelines that linen providers can implement to help contain coronavirus risks.
Thanks to industry standards implemented before the onset of the coronavirus crisis, countless linen providers were already practicing many of the strategies mentioned in CDC guidelines. For example, Alsco is a hygienically clean certified linen provider based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Much of what they do to maintain certification already lines up with anti-coronavirus strategies.
Below are descriptions of some of the CDC's guidelines. If you would like to see the complete list, visit the CDC website. Note there are multiple documents to view, given that the crisis is continually evolving.
Proper Containment of Soiled Linens
The first step in containing coronavirus within the commercial linen environment is to contain soiled linens. Everything from bed linens to soiled patient gowns should be placed in hampers lined with leak-proof plastic bags that can be tightly closed and sealed prior to transport. This is especially important for linens used in isolation wards.
In addition, the CDC says that no soiled linen sorting should take place in an environment at risk of contamination. Bags of soiled linens should go directly from collection site to laundry facility. If a third-party laundry provider is used, bags should remain closed and sealed throughout transport.
Safe Linen Sorting
Following arrival at the laundry facility, soiled linens need to be treated with the utmost care. The CDC recommends that all persons handling soiled linens wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Disposable gloves are a bare minimum. Protective gowns and face coverings are recommended.
Soiled linens should not be shaken during the sorting process. Doing so can release coronavirus molecules attached to the fabric. In addition, workers should physically handle the linens as little as possible. Efficient handling is key.
Separate Laundry Containers
Containers holding both soiled and clean linen should never be mixed. It is best to separate containers for soiled linens and use them exclusively for that purpose. The CDC further recommends routinely cleaning and sanitizing all linen containers regardless of their use. Only EPA approved disinfectants should be used.
Hot or Warm Water Washing
Higher temperatures are known to destroy coronavirus molecules. In light of that, the CDC recommends hot or warm washing whenever possible. Hot water washing is ideal but can be cost prohibitive. Warm water can be used in conjunction with chlorine or oxygen-activated bleaches to properly clean linens.
Proper Finishing and Packing
One of the most critical steps in commercial laundering is finishing and packing. If plant operators do not take the steps necessary to prevent coronavirus spread, they can easily send contaminated products out the door. In such cases, everything done prior to finishing and packing would have been for naught.
The CDC recommends immediately finishing and packing product as soon as they come out of the wash. Products should be packaged in a hygienically clean environment using leak-proof plastic bags that can be closed and sealed tightly. Employees should wear, at minimum, disposable gloves. Furthermore, all surfaces in the finishing and packing area should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
As we continue to battle the coronavirus, new guidelines and recommendations are sure to evolve. Companies in the commercial linen industry must be ready and willing to adapt accordingly. Otherwise, they may not be able to effectively control the spread of the virus within their facilities.