Diapers aren’t the only area where there’s a cloth vs. disposable debate. When it comes to disposable wipers or cloths in a hospital setting, there are differing opinions. To prevent HAIs, hospital cleaning staffs should consider going to 100 percent use of disposable products, says Mark Heller, MBA, a noted environmental hygiene consultant and president of Hygiene Performance Solutions Inc.

“It may be hard for some to consider the simple cleaning cloth as a critical component of safety,” he says. “More than a  ‘cleaning rag’ a [cloth] surface wipe can act as a fomite that may enable the transmission of pathogens, impact the performance of (some) disinfectants, and influence the productivity of environmental services workers. Having the good supply of hygienically clean surface wipes can improve the cleaning process and your teams’ overall performance.”
Attman agrees that switching completely over to disposables is a good idea.

“If you really want to protect the patient 100 percent, you’re going to use disposables and you’re going to use them properly,” he says.

Some cleaning departments may be wary of the cost of disposable products compared to reusing launderable cloths. But distributors say cost concerns are a moot point. The cost to launder cloths is often equal in comparison to purchasing disposable wipers and wet wipes. Most manufacturers offer calculator-type tools designed to make specific cost comparisons.

At minimum, disposable products should be used in areas of the hospital where HAIs are most likely to be contracted, such as in an operating room or in rooms where a patient has an infectious disease. In those cases Gerba says custodians really shouldn’t take any chances; it’s best to use wet wipes or other disposable products and dispose of them properly, rather than reusable cloths.

If a reusable cloth is used, the towels need to be separated according to the areas of the hospital being cleaned and washed accordingly. Washable wipers need to be color-coded to ensure that something used to clean a bathroom is not later used to clean hard surfaces in patient rooms. Cloths used for the same purpose should be all washed together. If not, cleaning staffs risk cross-contaminating surfaces.

However, with disposables, color-coding doesn’t matter. Cloths are used for one purpose and then thrown away — a tremendous safety advantage where cross-contamination is concerned. That being said disposable wipers are available in red, white, blue and yellow hues if the user needs color-coding.

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