Laundry hygiene

Laundry hygiene pertains to the practices that prevent or minimize disease and the spreading of disease via soiled clothing and household linens such as towels. Items most likely to be contaminated with pathogens are those that come into direct contact with the body, e.g., underwear, personal towels, facecloths, nappies. Micro-organisms can also be transferred between contaminated and uncontaminated items of clothing and linen during laundering. Of concern are the new “community” strains of MRSA. Experience in the USA suggests that these strains are transmissible within families, but also in community settings such as prisons, schools and sport teams. Skin-to-skin contact (including unabraded skin) and indirect contact with contaminated objects such as towels, sheets and sports equipment seem to represent the mode of transmission.
Two processes are considered suitable for hygienic cleaning of clothing and linen:
Washing or laundering at 60°C or above
Washing or laundering at 30-40°C using a bleach-based product: This produces decontamination of fabrics by a combination of physical removal and chemical inactivation. However, some types of fungi and viruses that are harder to inactivate, may not be removed.
Washing at temperatures of 40°C or below with a non-bleach product is considered to carry a risk of inadequate decontamination.

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