COVID-19: is washing uniforms at home a risk?

Researchers suspect that domestic washing machines fail to reach the right temperatures, therefore increasing risk of COVID-19 contamination

Picture shows workers wearing masks in a hospital laundry
Picture: Alamy

Nurses’ uniforms should be washed at work to reduce the risk of COVID-19 contamination at home, researchers say.

Researchers at Leicester’s De Montfort University and the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust are asking nurses to fill out a survey on how COVID-19 has affected their home laundry routine.

Principal investigator Katie Laird said healthcare workers could be at risk of spreading COVID-19 through the way they do their laundry.

Picture shows bags of items waiting to be washed in a hospital laundry
Picture: iStock

‘It’s well-known that a domestic washing machine no longer reaches the temperatures stated after it has been used for some time,’ she said.

‘Although nurses may be conscientious and follow the government guidelines, they may not be achieving the right temperature, through no fault of their own.’

Comparison of outcomes of household washing machines with industrial ones

The survey questions include:

  • What do you take your uniforms home in?
  • Where are you changing?
  • What temperature are you washing your uniform on?

Researchers will recreate the scenarios described in the survey results and compare the outcomes of using household washing machines with industrial ones to see which remove the virus most effectively.

The survey aims to investigate the effects of the pandemic on nurses’ laundering of uniforms, and their attitudes towards doing so at home. It is specifically related to uniforms/scrubs (workwear clothing) and excludes shoes and personal protective equipment.

The researchers also want to know about the psychological effect on healthcare workers and their families of washing uniforms at home.

The survey, which is anonymous, is for all healthcare staff working in the NHS, private and social care settings.

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Survey – laundering of healthcare uniforms during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic

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