ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Hospital-acquired infections (HAI) get a lot of press. That makes sense because when a patient enters a healthcare facility, they’re looking to get better, not become infected.
Because of HAIs, healthcare facilities are looking at effective surface disinfection, and this includes the floors and the mops used.
The changing policies on surface disinfection and types of mops used were discussed by David Shimp, vice president of sales and marketing, North America, for Pinnacle Textile Industries, and Marti Lawson, director of business development for Crothall Laundry Services in the mid-Atlantic region during the Textile Rental Services Association’s (TRSA) recent webinar, Healthcare Market Solutions—Greening of Hospitals: Cleaning of Surfaces in Patient Care Areas for Hospitals and Nursing Homes.
“The number of HAIs is very high, and right now it’s a big topic as it relates to hospital reimbursements and big dollars,” Lawson says. “HAIs are unnecessary and can be eliminated and controlled. They continue to grow, even with education.”
She goes on to say that there’s been a movement from cleaning patient areas with a detergent plus a disinfectant to using a detergent-free cleaner plus bleach, which is far more effective.
In terms of effectiveness, Shimp says that hospitals are changing to microfiber cloths and mops that dislodge and remove particles from surface crevices where regular cotton products can’t reach.
“When you use microfiber products, it actually will reduce water and also the use of disposable products and use fewer harsh chemicals to get surfaces clean,” he says. “A microfiber cleaning system used in conjunction with green cleaners and specialized mopping techniques can have a positive health and environmental impact.”
According to Shimp, there are many reasons why hospitals are switching to microfiber, flat-mop systems. These include cost savings, environmental benefits, health and safety, labor and cross-contamination concerns.
Microfiber products are manufactured with polyester nylon fibers that have split edges capable of trapping and holding microbes, dust and debris a lot more effectively than conventional mop products, Shimp says.
“It increases the effective surface area of your mop. It’s more effective in cleaning up small particles,” he says. “The fibers thoroughly clean surfaces. It’s like it grabs it, holds it and brings it in.”
Ergonomically, both mopping systems use similar motor skills, says Shimp. There are unfavorable positions for both methods, but the flat mopping system has reduced frequency and severity of risk factors. Also, there isn’t the weight of the water and the chemicals.
Shimp does point out that microfiber systems can’t be used in areas that have been contaminated with blood or bodily fluids.
“String mops absorb the fluids; flat mops push it and have to be thrown away,” he says. “It’s more of a disposal factor. If a flat mop was used, it would have to be disposed of immediately. Also, some products are ineffective in high-traffic areas and greasy and sticky floors. So, when using microfiber flat-mopping systems, they don’t necessarily work in every situation like a wet mop would.”
When it comes to laundering microfiber mops, the California Department of Health Care Services, in its Licensing and Certification March 2014 memo, says, according to Shimp, that it highly recommends using an industrial launderer to wash microfiber mops. The temperature has to be between 130 and 140 F. Also, the mops have to be separate from any other textiles, with no bleach or fabric softeners used.
“I have read other studies that bleaches are perfectly fine to use on microfiber mops,” Shimp says.
When it comes to purchasing a flat-mop system, Shimp cautions that “not all mopping systems are created equal; there is no governing body or industry definition of ‘microfiber.’”
He recommends doing careful research to find a vendor with a good-quality flat mop. He adds that the density of fibers per square inch can affect pricing and cleaning ability.
In terms of performance of microfiber compare to conventional mop systems, Shimp says the flat mops last five to 10 times longer and increase production by 10%.
The microfiber system also uses 95% less chemicals and water compared to conventional mops, says Shimp.
“Overall, microfiber costs 5-10% less, not including workers’ comp savings,” he adds.
The take-home message points for microfiber mops, Shimp says, are that it is a practical, common-sense approach for patient care areas, but it will not meet all mopping needs.
There are immediate water and chemical savings, but most cost savings are a result of reduced labor. And there are improved ergonomics and cross-contamination infection control.