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Maintaining a Clean Bill of Health During Covid-19

Only a matter of months ago, the novel coronavirus disease was largely unheard of. Today, the highly contagious and impactful condition has spread to nearly every country around the globe, infecting millions, causing 41,736 deaths in the UK alone and leading to a global death toll in excess of 450,000 to date, while also placing the British healthcare system under significant strain.

And while the easing of lockdown restrictions and the phased reopening of the British economy holds fresh hope for the general public, top medical professionals, the NHS and health care organisations across the world remain cautious, working tirelessly to prepare for a possible second wave of coronavirus in the winter. For hospitals and healthcare providers, therefore, safeguarding the welfare of staff and preventing any further risk of coronavirus infection is a priority. Utilising optimum cleaning processes and new solutions can aid this ongoing challenge.

Effective and efficient cleaning processes have always been an integral part of the modern healthcare environment – particularly when it comes to ‘high touch’ surfaces and floors – but as the very real threat of a renewed coronavirus outbreak emerge, it is likely to be one of the most practical solutions for seeking to limit the numbers of confirmed cases.

Indeed, the close and careful sanitisation of all touchpoints, floors and fittings, has now taken on a new meaning with the pandemic sweeping the globe, considerably adding to the already significant threat posed by the wide range of healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Disposing of cross-contamination

Preventing cross-contamination – the process by which bacteria or other microorganisms are unintentionally transferred from one contaminant or object to another, with harmful effect – is a fundamental objective for any healthcare environment, be that hospital, care home, health centre or even GP surgery. However, it has assumed even greater significance with the higher risk of the spread of Covid-19.

Traditional cloths have been shown to potentially spread over 30% of germs they pick up and then deposit them onto the next surface wiped. The superior cleaning performance of 100% microfibre cloths, and the capabilities of such solutions to deliver the same microbial removal as woven cloths without the risks associated with laundering such products, offer significant benefits. However, 93% of laundered microfibre cloths still contain dangerous levels of bacteria even after washing, according to the American Journal of Infection Control.

Organisations, therefore, should seek cleaning solutions that facilitate the removal of 99.99% of bacteria, and can securely trap it in and prevent its release onto the next surface wiped. To facilitate this, healthcare institutes are increasingly seeing the value in disposable wipes/cloths, particularly for cleaning ‘high touch’ surfaces, be that hospital beds, touch screen monitors, door handles, or light switches, amongst others.

Cleaning performance

Used appropriately, disposable microfibre wipes have been proven to be more effective for infection control due to their capabilities to reduce the risk of pathogen transmission in hospitals.

A recent study from UCHL, carried out on behalf of Berry Global, concluded that the numbers of many organisms – namely MRSA, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii and C. difficile spores – present in disposable cleaning materials when compared to pristine and laundered solutions were lower.

For instance, when evaluating the cleaning efficacy of disposable and re-useable (laundered) microfibre cloths under simulated cleaning conditions against numerous bacteria, tests concluded that the number of median log10 MRSA and K. pneumoniae incorporating a soil suspension were consistently lower in single-use cloths. This was even after cleaning materials were soaked in de-ionised water and disinfectants.

When determining the number of organisms present in pristine, laundered and disposable cleaning materials, tests were similarly positive in favour of disposable cloths and mops. While tests on microbial contamination in disposable cloths and mops recorded no relevant contamination, spore-forming bacteria were recovered from both pristine and laundered microfiber cloths and mop heads used for cleaning hospital rooms.

Environmental impact

For cleaning materials used for both “above the floor” and “on the floor” healthcare applications, there remains a common misconception that the waste cycle of the disposable wipes is a much heavier burden on the environment compared to washing microfiber wipes.

However, what many healthcare providers fail to consider is the considerable impact of the laundering process required to maintain the performance and cleanliness of re-usable materials.

Over the life cycle of a typical washable wipe and mop, a total of 0.8KwH energy is consumed per wash and 1.6KwH per tumble dry cycle (2.4KwH total). Given that each reusable cloth/mop is used 200 times on average over a period of 3 months, a total of 480KwH would be consumed over the average product life cycle.

To put this into perspective, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) , such consumption produces 0.339 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent to 842 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle or CO2 emissions from 38.2 gallons of gasoline consumed.

It is in this regard that the effectiveness of disposable microfibre cloths for cleaning surfaces and floors when compared to re-useable equivalents, can be particularly beneficial. Not only can they markedly aid improvements in infection control management and cross-contamination prevention, but also eradicate time-consuming and high carbon emission emitting laundering processes.

Overcoming the challenge

Arguably infection control has never been more important for healthcare organisations across the world. As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to grip the globe, and economies slowly manoeuvre back into action, implementing a strategy that uses the best cleaning solutions and regime will be integral to maintaining an optimum healthcare provision.

To learn more about how Chicopee’s® Microfibre solutions can support the healthcare sectors, please contact us at