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Failure to Keep Laundry Facility Clean Turns Customers Off, Threatens Quality (Part 1 of 4)

An AmericanLaundryNews.com Exclusive“Sometimes, we get so caught up in getting the work processed and to our customers that we don’t keep the laundry production areas as clean as they should be. What tasks should we be performing regularly to keep our facility clean? To what degree do we need to clean our equipment and how often?”TECHNICAL SUPPORT: Jim Mitchell, principal technical support specialist, is a 27-year Ecolab veteran. He’s currently the OPL lead in providing technical support to field associates. He edits Institutional Technical Digest, a monthly publication reaching 3,300 employees.
One of the primary goals of a scheduled in-house laundry clean-up program is to protect valuable production equipment. Establishing and committing to a regular maintenance and cleaning program are vital for any laundry operation to support safety and avoid unnecessary repairs or replacement costs.
Residual lint, wax, grease, dirt, chemicals and other contaminants can slowly cause costly depreciation. Quite simply, routine preventative maintenance should be performed on equipment as outlined in equipment operation manuals. Repairing leaks or replacing defective components in a timely manner also promotes cleanliness and longevity of equipment. 
Now, I’d like to take a slightly different twist in answering this question by focusing on the protection of another highly valuable asset to your operation, your employees.
Cleaning for disinfection in the work place should now be a part of every laundry operation, large or small.
Protecting your employees from the growing threat of infectious pathogens and bacteria should be taken seriously. Over the years I’ve witnessed many shocking examples of employees’ nonchalance when handling heavily soiled pads and diapers, isolation linen, surgical linen, etc.  
A growing list of infectious agents should sound an alarm for every laundry operation. We’ve all heard the media’s cries regarding the MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) “Super Bug,” an antibiotic-resistant strain of staph. SARS, avian flu, HBV, HIV and Norovirus (Norwalk), just to name a few, have also created fear over the last few years. The Norwalk virus isn’t limited to cruise ships, and it’s extremely contagious.
The important thing to consider here is the potential for contaminated linens to transmit a virus, infectious bacteria and fungi is very real. Take the necessary steps to protect your employees.
Identify areas in your operation for potential transmission to employees:Linen collection/transportation vehicles – Soiled linen collected in bags and placed in these vehicles can transmit pathogens as well as bacterial infections. Daily disinfection of the vehicle/carrier is good practice.Collection bags – Wash them in a heavy-soil cycle and dry them at high temperature at the end of the day. Follow the manufacturer recommendations for laundering.Laundry carts – An obvious area of concern, all laundry carts used to transport soiled linen should be washed and disinfected daily.
   Soiled-linen conveyor systems – Clean and disinfect them daily.Linen chutes and rooms where soiled linen is collected and stored – Disinfect them daily; include floors, tables and slings. 
Employees should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling linen in all of the areas I’ve listed. PPE includes gloves, goggles, masks and aprons. These items are also required when handling certain cleaning chemicals, including disinfectants.
PPE requirements for cleaning supplies can be found on their corresponding Material Safety Data Sheet.
About disinfectants, any product that makes a “disinfectant” claim must be registered as such with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This registration is acknowledged by an EPA registration number on the container of the product. However, this registration is not a blanket that certifies the product to be effective against all pathogens.
Each disinfectant is registered to be effective only against a fixed list. Don’t assume that the disinfectant you’re using is registered against MRSA, as an example. A complete listing of the pathogens claims for each product should be available upon request.              
When cleaning up biohazard spills, play it safe! Spilled bodily fluids, whether from soiled linen or from employees, should be treated as a biohazard. OSHA requires specific clean-up procedures of these fluids, which can be found by searching its website, www.osha.gov.
Approved biohazard clean-up kits contain all the necessary components (and instructions) required to clean and disinfect biohazard spills. Check with your chemical supplier or your local city/county health department for availability. Kits can also be obtained online by searching the term “biohazard clean-up kits.”
Specific regulations may apply in your state or local area when handling and/or laundering potentially hazardous linens. A quick check with your local health department can help clarify any questions you may have.

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