Keeping Laundered Textiles Clean During Storage, Transport (Part 1)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“As managers, we know that delivering clean, safe products means extra vigilance and care even after linens are washed and dried. What measures should we be taking to make sure linens are kept clean during storage and transport?”

Long-Term Care Laundry: Brian Barfoot, Aberdeen Village/Aramark, Olathe, Kan.: 

A linen/laundry service’s highest priority is to ensure that linen being used by patients is clean in appearance and guaranteed germ-free.

Hospitals, clinics, surgery centers and doctors’ offices have never been busier. How can we demonstrate this most important service for such environments on a daily basis?

My top six “must do’s” and observations are:

  1. Frequent non-scheduled/unannounced inspections of your self-operated or vendor laundry operation, from the point of soiled-linen drop-off to a clean-linen cart ready for transport. With this should come clear and concise communication from laundry management regarding any inspection issues that need follow-up action plans, such as the following: dust control; poor visual quality of linen items; inaccurate bleaching/disinfecting dispensers; laundry employee infection prevention concerns; and a lack of documentation for equipment preventive maintenance or replacement.
  2. In the case of vendor laundries, how is linen transported to your facility? What does the inside of the transporting vehicle look like? What do clean-linen carts look like? Is there an approved infection prevention guideline supported by facility and vendor staff, including clean-linen carts completely covered while in transport?
  3. For self-operated laundries, is there a very clear and distinctive visual difference between the soiled and clean sides of the laundry? What structurally separates the two areas? Is there an approved infection prevention guideline supported by facility and department staff defining the purpose of these two areas?
  4. What does the clean-linen-room storage area look like? Is your first impression that it is clean? Will an inspection support that? Are all clean-linen-room carts and shelving completely covered?
  5. How is your clean linen distributed throughout the facility? Are carts completely covered at all times while in transport? What do the final destination storage areas, carts and rooms look like? Are they scheduled for cleaning? Is the cleaning completed? Do inspections support that?
  6. How do you handle clean linen at the point of use? Has support and clinical staff been given orientation and training on the correct handling of clean linen?

When the linen item arrives to the patient, all staff members who have supported the cleaning, storage, distribution and handling of that linen item should feel confident that they’re giving the patient the very best product. It’s the safe and right thing to do. Think of it this way: Would you allow your mother to use that linen item?

Consulting Services: Sam Garofalo, Technical Consulting Associates, Charlotte, N.C.: 

The question is timely, although it focuses on transportation, when it should cover everything from the healthcare facility’s loading dock back to the bed!

My comments reflect my opinion based on observations and experiential data from my world. No judgment is implied or intended.

We have all heard of the tragic deaths of several young people in a hospital in New Orleans from what has been described as a lapse in acceptable laundry procedures. Horrifying as this news is, we must put things into the proper perspective.

Our industry has provided billions of pounds of clean and hygienic linen products to healthcare facilities for decades. This is not a time to panic; this is not a time to overreact. The guidelines that you need as processors have already been written and are readily available. In most cases, the smart operators have already implemented and are maintaining these programs.

If you feel that you don’t need a good program, think again! Get copies, integrate the procedures into your process and maintain them. The patients, of course, are the first concern; however, your colleagues who were involved in this preventable disaster have had their worlds turned upside down forever!

This was an isolated incident exacerbated by carelessness and a lack of following accepted practices. We will probably never know what really happened, as very little factual information has been released and the slant has been self-serving to say the least. The one fact that jumped out at me was that the return carts (trucks) had no poly liners! Having no poly liners in itself is a serious breach of acceptable procedures. This to me is a huge red flag and indicates that the systems employed in this case, if any, were seriously deficient.

So what should you do? Chances are you’re already in some semblance of compliance just by default, so an approved standards program should be fairly easy to implement and maintain in your plant. You can bet it’s a lot cheaper than explaining to a jury why you shouldn’t be responsible for the deaths of innocent children, not to mention having to live with yourself!

Commercial Laundry: Richard Warren, Linen King, Conway, Ark.:

The obvious answer is to put a cover on the clean linen. Some facilities wrap bundles and some line the carts and tie the top, while others cover the linen, cart and all. In any event, the linen should not be exposed to the atmosphere.

Trucks should be disinfected each day or after each run. The disinfectant doesn’t cost a lot, and it doesn’t take much time. However, there are probably quite a few trucks that are not disinfected.

The location where the day’s shipment of clean linen is delivered needs to be as carefully monitored as the processing facility or the users’ facility. Sometimes the linen is kept outdoors for hours and not secured, or the room is lacking in hygiene. It could be exposed to the community atmosphere through wind and other kinds of weather. Also, if it isn’t secured, the linen could be pilfered.

Laundries should have pest control service so customers can have a secure feeling about their linen.

Be sure the carts are clean and disinfected. Housekeeping must be done with protecting the clean linen in mind. Letting lint balls float in the air over clean linen is a bad idea. In terms of sterile linen, the industry doesn’t expect it, but some individuals do.

Common sense must prevail.

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: James Brewster, RLLD, The Resort at Glade Springs, Daniels, W.Va.: 

The end result of laundry processing is clean linens. As you achieve this goal, there should be extra steps put into place to ensure cleanliness. One thing that we try to do is keep the linen on shelves and wrap the items if they will be stored for a long period of time. Also, when the shelves are empty, wipe and clean them so dirt, dust and lint doesn’t collect and soil your linen.

Another way to keep linens clean, especially in transit, is to wrap your carts in plastic. There are vendors that carry these liners for baskets and covers, which ensure that the linens will stay clean while transporting to the chosen destination.

Always try to keep things disinfected as much as possible, especially on the clean end of your laundry. Your chemical vendor could give some insight on what products work best for your work environment. For instance, folding tables that are made of wood or plastic may require a certain chemical for disinfection.

The extra effort required for these tasks will pay for itself in the end. Stay safe and clean.

Check back Wednesday for the conclusion!

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