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It Didn’t Come Out in the Wash

17 April 2015 | Updated 01 January 1970

Research has shown that nearly 50% of hospital uniforms are washed in temperatures too cool to kill bacteria.

The research from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) researchers have recommended there should be national guidelines set for washing uniforms of nurses and other hospital staff after it was revealed 49% of those surveyed did not use water hot enough at home to kill off certain bacteria.

DMU microbiologist, Katie Laird with PhD student, Kate Riley and Principal Lecturer John Williams, from the university’s School of Fashion and Textiles, surveyed 265 hospital staff anonymously at four unnamed hospitals in the East Midlands. They were asked how often they washed their uniforms, temperatures they washed them at and whether uniforms were washed separately from other clothing.

The worrying results revealed an alarming 49% of those surveyed did not wash their uniforms at a recommended temperature of 60°C, while 40% also washed their uniforms with other clothing. A total of 74% of respondents said they washed their uniforms after every shift, meaning more than 20% were potentially carrying bacteria-contaminated clothing into another shift. 

The four hospitals surveyed offered different washing guidelines or, in some cases, no guidelines at all on specific aspects of uniform care.

The Textiles Services Association (TSA) which represents UK laundry and textile rental companies that provide specialist services to the healthcare sector have welcomed the report.

"It has long been campaigning for a detailed study to support its considered view that through the vehicle of hospital workers wearing both their clean and soiled uniforms in transit, the potential hazard of cross-contamination is increased,” stated Dr Roger Salmon, CEO, TSA. “The inability of domestic washing machines to carry out a validated hygienic wash process and the practice of mixing classifications at home further exacerbates the cross-contamination potential. As with hospital linen and operating theatre garments, nurses’ uniforms should be laundered to a validated hygienic standard to protect patients and staff."

Picture:    DMU microbiologist, Katie Laird with PhD student, Kate Riley have helped carry out important research into washing uniforms of nurses and other hospital staff.

Article written by Cathryn Ellis | Published 17 April 2015


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