Laundered Hospital Cleaning Towels and Soak Buckets Harbor Viable Bacteria, Mold

November 20, 2013 | Strategic Insights for Health System


Typical hospital laundering practices are insufficient to remove all viable microorganisms and spores from towels, regardless of whether they are sent to a central laundering facility or laundered in-house, concludes a study published in the October 2013 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. The researchers conducted a survey of cleaning practices and collected swab samples from clean towels and disinfectant soak buckets at 10 hospitals in Arizona. They detected viable bacteria on 93% of the towels but on only 67% of the soak buckets. Spore-forming bacteria were isolated from 56% of the towels, coliform bacteria from 23%, Escherichia coli from 3.3%, and mold from 13%. Spore-forming bacteria were also isolated from 44% of the soak buckets. Although neither methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus nor Clostridium difficile were isolated from the towels or the soak buckets, other total coliforms that are known to have significant involvement in nosocomial infections were recovered from both sources, including Pseudomonas luteola, Pantoea spp.

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