February 23, 2011 | | Comments 0
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Mac’s Safety Space: Joint Commission standards on mop and rag laundering

Q: We’re concerned about whether the way our mops and rags are laundered are up to Joint Commission standards. At this point, we’re laundering them ourselves in bleach in our washer. The temperatures are hot, but not 160 degrees. Are these mops and rags considered “linen” and do they have to be washed up to the same standards as the rest of the linen?

Steve MacArthur: The quick and dirty response (small pun intended) is that The Joint Commission has no standards relative to the processing of mops and rags, and even the CDC Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control make no specific mention of these items, and as far as a time and temperature equation (temperatures greater than 160 degrees F for more than 25 minutes), they indicate that that applies only when hot-water laundry cycles are used.

They do make chemical detergents for warm-water laundry cycles (less than 160 degrees), so that might be a consideration as well. That said, as they nominally do not come into contact with patients, I don’t think that there would be a compelling reason to consider mops and rags as “linen,” so they could probably tolerate a somewhat lesser level of sanitization, but what that level is would have to be determined.

A couple of things spring to mind. One avenue would be to contact the vendor from whom you obtain mops and see whether there are manufacturer recommendations for laundering the mops. The rags, unless you are purchasing them as a specific consumable, are probably the vestiges of patient linens past their usefulness in that context.

Not being sure what type of washing machine you are using for this process, it might be of value to consider the purchase of a commercial-grade washer. From personal experience, few things “kill” a household-grade washing machine faster than washing mops, particularly in bleach. Also, with a commercial washer, you can probably provide a sufficient time and temperature mix that would perhaps even suspend the need for bleach (bleach is no friend to fabric, I can tell you). Certainly the commercial route is an expensive start-up, but you can probably figure out whether the return on investment is worth it.

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Filed Under: CDC/infection controlEnvironment of care

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Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.

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