Last week featured a number of stories related to cleaning and cleaning verification. One stuck out to me: "Dirty Laundry? How Nasty Germs Survive in Your Washer".
I am a member of ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) Committee D12. The short hand name for this working committee is the "detergency group". Our committee is focused on issues of cleaning and cleaning efficacy. This includes everything from cleaning surgical instruments (our focus) to cleaning dishware, cleaning surfaces and, of course, cleaning clothes.
One important thing I have learned is that laundry done at home is often not as clean as it should be. Making things even less safe is the advent of high efficiency washers. While these machines are designed to clean at low temperature with special detergent, the fact is that the use of less water at lower temperature reduces the margin for error when it comes to getting clothes clean and reduction of cross contamination. Further, the issue of biofilm formation in home laundries is becoming more prominent for the same reason.
What does this all have to do with us in healthcare? Please do not take your scrubs home for cleaning! Home laundries are simply not capable of adequately cleaning and disinfecting healthcare attire. Not only are patients at risk, but anyone in your family is put at risk - germs in your clothes could be transferred to the clothing of a loved one.