I've always been lead to believe that mattresses are soft, comfortable surfaces on which to lay my poor weary body. Sure there are those of you who like PaPa Bear choose the stiff as a board mattress or like MaMa Bear who prefer the super soft pillow top mattress, but I would hazard a guess that most of us are like Goldilocks or Baby Bear and choose something in between. Regardless of our mattress preference I believe I can say with certainty that you would never lump your mattress into the same category as your countertops, toilets, sinks or tables when it comes to cleaning. Why then do we do so in hospitals?
I can hear the AH-HA's from here!!! Many of you are likely saying, why because they are covered in a "plastic" material that is water resistant and surely, a surface that is water resistant must be able to be cleaned and disinfected like a hard surface such as a countertop. WRONG.
If you have not seen or read it, there was an abstract presented at the APIC conference in San Antonio by researchers at Xavier University that investigated the cleaning practices for hospital mattresses at the top US adult hospitals. Using the US News & World Report they contacted the top 113 hospitals by phone asking the same 5 questions: What chemical do you clean your beds with? How do you mix or dilute the chemical? How long do you leave the chemical on the bed or do you just let it dry on the bed? Do you use anything other than the chemical first, like soap and water? Do you rinse off the cleaner after you clean the bed?
Of the 113 hospitals, 69 agreed to answer the questions. The chemicals used to clean the mattresses included Quaternary Ammonium Compounds, Bleach Compounds, Phenolic Cleaners and Hydrogen Peroxide. Only 2 of the hospitals were using products within the recommended pH. Only 16 were cleaning prior to disinfection and only 6 were rinsing the disinfectant off after use.
This is where last week's blog comes into play. Read the label, interpret correctly, understand and follow the label instructions found on your disinfectant AND the cleaning and disinfection instructions of the mattress material manufacturer. Disinfectants are intended for use on hard, non-porous surfaces. In fact, until May 31st of this year, the EPA did not have an approved product performance test guideline that disinfectants could be tested for efficacy against and make label claims of disinfection of soft surfaces such as mattresses, fabrics or textiles. Further, if you've taken the time to read the cleaning and disinfection instructions from the manufacturers who make the mattress material found on hospital beds you would have noted that they recommend cleaning the mattress with soap and water, disinfecting the surface, and then rinsing.
My colleagues and I for years have recommended that hospital mattresses be rinsed post disinfection. We weren't trying to create a make-work project. We weren't trying to complicate the cleaning and disinfection process for your housekeepers. We were in fact actually trying to follow and comply with the instructions given by the mattress material manufactures to ensure that the disinfectants being used were used correctly.
I hope you will take the time to review your cleaning and disinfection practices, to read a few labels or cleaning and disinfection instructions and make any necessary changes you need to!