Healthcare professionals have questions about the infection prevention effectiveness of contemporary laundry processes for healthcare textiles (HCTs). Current industrial laundry processes achieve microbial reductions via physical, chemical, and thermal actions, all of which result in producing hygienically clean HCTs. European researchers have demonstrated that oxidative laundry additives have sufficient potency to meet US Environmental Protection Agency benchmarks for sanitizers and disinfectants. Outbreaks of infectious diseases associated with laundered HCTs are extremely rare; only 12 such outbreaks have been reported worldwide in the past 43 years. Root cause analyses have identified inadvertent exposure of clean HCTs to environmental contamination (including but not limited to exposure to dust in storage areas) or a process failure during laundering. To date, patient-to-patient transmission of infection has not been associated with hygienically clean HCTs laundered in accordance with industry process standards. Occupationally acquired infection involved mishandling of soiled HCTs and failure to use personal protective equipment properly. Laboratory studies of antimicrobial treatments for HCTs demonstrate a wide range of activity from 1 to 7 log10 reduction of pathogens under various experimental conditions. Clinical studies are needed to evaluate potential use of these treatments for infection prevention. Microbiological testing of clean HCTs for certification purposes is now available in the United States. Key features (eg, microbial sampling strategy, numbers of textiles sampled) and justification of the testing are discussed.
Infect. Control Hosp. Epidemiol. 2015;36(9):1073–1088