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VA adds silver to dirty laundry to kill germs

Laundry cleaning equipment
New antimicrobial technology adds silver ion to laundry to combat harmful bacteria, mold, and mildew.

Last fall, the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System and Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System began using innovative antimicrobial technology involving silver ions to combat harmful bacteria, mold, and mildew in their hospital laundries.

“We adopted this new technology because it has proven to be an important infection control layer for launderable soft goods such as patient linens, sheets, pillowcases, and scrubs in the hospital industry,” said Weston Phillips, Environmental Management Service (EMS) assistant chief.

Even before the pandemic, VA health care facilities in Oklahoma were already focused on environmental cleanliness and infection prevention and control. They added pulsed, high energy, broad spectrum UV light technology, which kills deadly microorganisms, to their traditional disinfection processes.

Now, Oklahoma VA facilities have taken the infection control fight to the laundry room.

By introducing this antimicrobial component during the rinse cycle, silver ions are dispensed into laundry machines and become infused on textiles such as linens and gowns. After the laundry process, the silver ions remain infused in the textiles which continues to kill harmful pathogens. This ultimately helps prevent health care-associated infections.

“The process, approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, effectively keeps pathogens off linens during storage and ensures they are pathogen-free even when they are placed into patient care areas,” said John Barbee, an EMS technical career field trainee.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one in 31 hospital patients has at least one health care-associated infection on any given day.

While the antimicrobial properties of silver have been known for centuries, researchers have discovered that silver ions play a significant role in killing germs and even help combat antiobiotic-resistant 'superbugs' in the health care environment.

“VA is usually at the forefront of using new technology,” said Phillips “With the ongoing threat from emerging pathogens, we are always on the lookout for new technologies so we can continue to provide best-in-class care for our Veterans.”

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