Improving Sustainability of the Domestically Laundered Healthcare Uniform
Sustainability is an important consideration in today’s society and all areas of textiles contribute to a negative environmental impact; in production, during the ‘in use’ phase and importantly, at the end of life. The use of fibres with alternative end of life options, such as recycling, to divert from landfill disposal, along with reduced temperatures for domestic laundering are becoming of increasing importance. However, concern arises when applied to the healthcare market, in particular, healthcare uniforms which could be contaminated with harmful microorganisms. It is common practice for healthcare uniforms in the United Kingdom to be laundered domestically by staff and, therefore, to establish current practices undertaken, a questionnaire to healthcare staff was distributed and resulted in 265 responses. Results were analysed to determine the most commonly used temperatures, detergents, frequency of laundering and items laundered with healthcare uniforms. The data showed that uniforms are not always laundered after every shift and the use of 40°C was common (33%, n=265). The survival of two frequently observed healthcare associated infections in hospitals, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, on the surface of polyester and cotton was established and the attachment analysed using Scanning Electron Microscopy. These results demonstrated that polyester had the lowest survival of both microorganisms and less attachment was seen on the surface of the fibre when compared to cotton. Polyester was selected for textile testing and a range of development fabrics were created using variations in yarn type and fabric structure. Conventional test methods were used to determine the comfort properties of the fabrics created, with results indicating that equal or better performance can be achieved when compared to current fabrics used for healthcare uniforms. To determine the optimal laundering process to achieve removal of microorganisms from the surface of textile items, three household detergents along with a standard reference detergent were tested for their efficacy against E. coli and S. aureus at three temperatures (40°C, 60°C and 71°C) and three times (3, 10 and 15 minutes). A domestic laundering cycle was then simulated whereby an inoculated swatch of fabric was washed and tested for recovery of bacteria to determine the most appropriate temperature for use in the home. The results of the investigation indicated that a standard 40°C domestic wash cycle was ineffective at achieving complete removal of microbial contamination and could allow cross contamination to occur. The use of a 60°C standard domestic wash cycle was found to be significantly more effective, achieving complete removal of microbial contamination.
- PhD