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Picture for illustrative purposes Image Credit: Pixabay

Dubai: Can external laundries be the source of contamination and transmission for COVID-19? Experts say that while the actual process of washing with powerful industrial grade detergents at a high temperature inactivates the virus, the real threat would the manner in which the clothes are handled and the number of hands it passes through before being packaged.

Industrial grade detergents neturalise all virus and bacteria

Vinaya Jaydev, Chemistry Teacher at GEMS Modern Academy, said, ”Any kind of contamination on clothes is likely to be neutralised while being washed during laundry. Industrial grade detergents have stronger cleansing action than soaps and therefore can remove the surface virus effectively. The chemical action of the detergent should degrade the protein coat of the virus, thereby neutralising it. Besides the higher temperature of wash (60 degrees celsius), and post ironing should successfully destroy the contaminant. The only other source of transmission at the  laundry can be the person handling the clothes and packing it."

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How linen is being handled at UAE hospitals during the coronavirus Image Credit: Supplied

Alcohol content in disinfectants and detergents eliminates transmission possibilities

Dr Kamal Akkach, Internal Medicine Consultant at King’s College Hosptial of London, UAE, added, “Most of the chemicals used in wet and drycleaning contain 70-100 per cent alcohol and that completely disinfects the clothes. Combined with the high temperatures at which clothes are washed, they get completely sterlised. But what we need to guard against is human contact. Most laundries here follow high standards set by the municipalities of not mixing clothes of different clients. If segregation is practised then once you received your laundry parcel, you have to apply the same standards of disinfecting and receiving the parcel as you would with other bags you may receive via online shopping. Take precautions not to take the parcel in. As the delivery boy, to leave it on your door step. Using gloves, you extract your clothes and discard the outer bag outside. Bring only the clothes in.”

Hospitals where all kinds of bed linen, towels, patient and surgeon gowns and other articles of clothes are washed in an industrial laundry, are taking no chances and follow established procedures of segregation and sterlisation.

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How linen belonging to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients is handled in the laundry Image Credit: Supplied

Hospital laundries following highest standards of hygiene and segregation

Mohammad Ashraf , head of facilties and Projects a Prime Hospital, which also has isolation rooms for COVID-19 positive patients, takes no chances. Explaining the process, Ashraf said, “We have outsourced our laundry to a company and follow very strict protocols. The laundry of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, first of all are in negative pressure isolation rooms where they are completely quarantined, The laundry from this room is picked up by hospital staff wearing adequate Perosnal Protection Equipment (PPE) goes through a separate entrance in a separate Red coloured water dissolvable bag which is not opened at all and placed in a separate washer. The laundry is designed in a manner that there is one door to put in the dirty laundry after which it is sealed and comes out on the other side through another door. The red bag itself dissolves in water and clothes are washed in temperature as high as 85 degrees Celsius with strong industrial grade detergents that completely neturalise any virus or bacteria including COVID 19. We make sure linens are not mixed at any stage from loading, to washing to collection post washing.”

Most hotels too have their own basement laundries and people manning it wear masks and gloves. One facilties incharge at a local five star who declined to share his name said: “Our occupancy has thinned out completely and there is hardly any laundry load these days. Whatever linen , towels we need to wash, we make sure to segregate and use high quality detergents and disinfectants. Our housekeeping staff uses adequate personal protection gear while handling laundry and the chances of any transmission are next to nothing.”