Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

What's Your Microfiber Program?

February 1, 2011

By now, almost everyone has heard that microfiber is excellent for cleaning.

As a result, many health care facilities are using it to clean and disinfect hard surfaces.

In addition to its superior cleaning ability, microfiber has other advantages such as enhancing worker productivity, reducing chemical and water use and limiting overall cleaning costs.

However, many of these advantages can come at a cost.

Environmental service (EVS) directors, whose budgets absorb the upfront inventory cost of microfiber, can also experience additional expenses to maintain their investment.

Replacement costs and training, not to mention the management of a microfiber program, require an extensive amount of time and resources.

Conducting regular inventory counts, negotiating with vendors and ensuring the microfiber is properly used and maintained all takes valuable time out of an EVS director''s day.

To experience the benefits of using microfiber without many of these costs, more EVS directors are exploring outsourced programs.

Inventory Cost And Loss

Depending on the size of the hospital, the upfront costs for a microfiber program are not realistic for most EVS budgets.

For example, a 350-bed facility would require approximately 10,000 microfiber towels a week — that''s upwards of $25,000.

Once the investment is made, it is important to focus on containment and limiting replacement costs.

One way to do this is with a check-in and checkout system.

When cleaning staff retrieve their keys and mobile communication devices, they can also receive the allocated number of microfiber towels and mops.

At the end of their shift, staff will check in these materials.

Holding staff members accountable for a specific amount of inventory will help reduce loss.

With an outsourced managed program, a supplier representative first conducts an audit of the facility to assess the microfiber needs.

A program is then customized specifically for those operations by taking into account the size of the facility, average number of rooms cleaned and general put-through rates.

The total amount of microfiber required for effective infection prevention is determined and the appropriate inventory is stocked.

Proper Laundering

Due to the potential for cross-contamination and the growth of potentially harmful bacteria, it is extremely important to follow proper laundering protocols when managing a microfiber program.

Throughout the cleaning process, microfiber attracts a variety of organic and inorganic matter.

If this material is not removed from the microfiber material during the laundering process, it can provide an optimal breeding ground for bacteria growth.

When laundering microfiber, the pH of the washing solution should be elevated to dislodge all bacteria on the microfiber surface.

In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all hospital linens be laundered using chlorine bleach at a wash temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Most in-house laundry systems cannot achieve this temperature, which limits the quality of the laundering cycle.

Be sure to read the label because microfiber of poorer quality will become less effective when laundered with bleach, diminishing its "magnetic" properties and breaking textile fibers.

As the fibers in the microfiber become increasingly ineffective through the laundering process, it reduces the efficacy of the cleaning performed.

The effectiveness of the microfiber can also be degraded when washed with linen or cotton products.

If microfiber towels or mopping pads are accidently thrown in with other items, such as bed sheets or patient gowns, the microfiber attracts cotton fibers, which clog the microfiber and make it difficult for it to pick up smaller particles.

With an outsourced or managed microfiber program, used or dirty microfiber is taken to a laundry facility equipped with specialized washing and drying technology.

Poor Quality Microfiber

With many different qualities of microfiber available, it''s important that EVS directors remain wary when selecting microfiber for their facility.

If microfiber fabric has a low percentage of microfiber to the total composition split, uses foam backing or is unable to withstand high drying temperatures or chlorine bleach, it is likely to be less durable than higher quality microfiber.

The problem with using microfiber with a low composition split is that it will be primarily comprised of polypropylene or polyethylene — oil-based products that are used in trashcan liners.

As a result, using microfiber that has a low percentage of actual fabric and a high percentage of polypropylene or polyethylene might provide a smoother cleaning experience, but it will not be as effective at cleaning as a product that uses more microfiber.

Quality microfiber is not only more effective in removing dirt from the surface, it also requires substantially less chemical for cleaning and disinfecting.

Improved worker productivity is another benefit of using quality microfiber, as EVS staff members do not need to wipe the surface as many times to ensure its cleanliness.

When selecting a managed microfiber program, look only at vendors that offer top-performing microfiber, as this will reduce associated program costs such as chemicals and labor.

Training

With an average industry employee turnover rate of 200 to 300 percent, a coordinated training program can reduce the amount of time and labor an EVS director spends directing training efforts.

With the dangers associated with cross-contamination, it''s imperative that employees understand both the techniques and processes for using microfiber in order to capitalize on the full benefits of the program.

With training required for both new and current employees, courses can take an extensive amount of time for administrators to prepare and facilitate.

In addition, laundry personnel require training to understand protocols and recommendations for cleaning microfiber.

To reduce the likelihood that training sessions are overlooked or that employees do not receive the proper training due to limited time and resources, working with a managed microfiber program ensures that all the necessary training is conducted and properly documented.

Instructors offer proven best practices for cleaning with microfiber to reduce worker injuries, improve patient satisfaction scores and reduce opportunities for cross-contamination.

If you''re using microfiber, it''s important to look at all the peripheral factors contributing to your program.

After reviewing your program, you''ll likely find that the time and labor associated with managing your microfiber might be as much or more than the initial investment.

In order to get the most out of your program without the cost, an outsourced, managed microfiber program might be the right option for you.


Gary Pagenkopf is director of health care with Cintas Corporation. Cintas provides comprehensive microfiber services for health care facilities. For more information on how a managed microfiber program can reduce your time and costs, go to www.cintashealthcare.com or call 1-800-CINTAS1.