In recent years we have seen a significant trend towards low temperatures laundering to conserve energy. It is important however to ask “Is low temperature laundering associated with increased infection risk?”
This issue was addressed in a presentation by Professor Sally Bloomfield at the Infection Prevention Society conference Sept 2016 (slides downloadable from http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/review/hygienic-laundering-clothing-bedlinens-towels-etc-domestic-settings-new-insights). Firstly the presentation examined the extent of the risk of infection associated with clothing and household linens. It then reviewed data on the hygiene effectiveness of machine laundering and the factors which affect efficacy. The data suggest significant reduction in hygiene efficacy at lower temperatures.
The main conclusions are:
• Laundry Infection risks – although less than risk of infection transmission via hands, high frequency hand contact surfaces etc are risk factors for spread of infection and spread of antibiotic resistant strains in the community as well as in hospitals
• These risks must be suitably managed as part of multibarrier approach to hygiene in home and community settings.
• This must include managing risks of spread of antibiotic resistant strains and C. difficile
• Hygiene standards of laundering must be sustained
• We need to lobby laundry detergent/appliance manufacturers to take laundry hygiene more seriously i.e. take account of hygiene issues as well as sustainability
• It is important to understand that visibly clean is not necessarily hygienically clean, and:
• ensure laundry machine reaches specified temperatures
• develop ways (products/appliances) which ensure hygiene efficacy of machine laundering is sustained – as well as sustainable
The data presented was based on the following IFH scientific reviews and recent publications
• The infection risks associated with clothing and household linens in home and everyday life settings, and the role of laundry (2011) http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/best-practice-review/infection-risks-associated-clothing-and-household-linens-home-and-everyday-life
• Effectiveness of laundering processes used in domestic (home) settings (2013) http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/review/effectiveness-laundering-processes-used-domestic-home-settings-2013
• Fact sheet: Clothing, household linens, laundry and hygiene. http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/factsheet/clothing-household-linens-laundry-and-home-hygiene
• Honisch , Bockmuhl, Staminger. Impact of wash cycle time, temperature and detergent formulation on the hygiene effectiveness of domestic laundering. J Appl Microbiol 2014, 117(6):1787-97
• Brands, Brinkmann, Bloomfield and Bockmühl (2016) Microbicidal action of heat, detergents and active oxygen bleach as components of laundry hygiene. Tenside Surf. Det. 53, 495-501.