Household washing machines may not kill bacteria

Research has found residential washing machines may not always use hot enough water to eliminate dangerous bacteria like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Acinetobacter, a Gram-negative bacteria, from hospital uniforms.

Through a series of experiments, researchers found that washing uniforms in residential washing machines with detergent and water temperature of 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) was enough to eliminate both MRSA and Acinetobacter. At 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), MRSA was eliminated, but substantial amounts of Acinetobacter were detected. In the UK, energy-saving washers often operate at temperatures near 40 degrees.

However, the researchers found using a hot iron on fabric after a 40 degree Celsius wash did eliminate the Acinetobacter. The effect of tumble drying the uniforms was not tested.

The study authors are planning additional studies to see if common HAI bacteria can remain and develop in residential washing machines after laundering hospital uniforms.

The article was not online at the time of publication so the link below is to an alert service from the journal.

Read more at Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology