Blog - Seattle

Confused By “Hygienically Clean?” 3 Common Questions and their Answers

Posted by ImageFIRST on Sep 6, 2016 2:15:01 PM

Does your laundry provider advertise its linens, gowns and scrubs as “hygienically clean”? Are you in the dark as to what, exactly, that designation means? You’re not alone. Most healthcare facilities that rent “hygienically clean” healthcare textiles would be hard-pressed to define the term.

Not being able to pinpoint how clean your linens are can be dangerous, considering that one in 20 patients will contract a healthcare-associated infection this year according to the CDC. Let’s look closer at this term and what it means for your medical laundry.

What, exactly, does “hygienically clean” mean?

We wish we could tell you. But the nature of the term “hygienically clean” is, in part, its vagueness.

The Advancement of Medical Instrumentation defines the term as meaning “free of pathogens in sufficient numbers to cause human illness,” but that’s far from a quantitative definition. The Textile Rental Services Association is a little clearer, defining hygienically clean as having “less than or equal to 20 colony forming units (cfu).” However, few healthcare linen services in Seattle, WA actually employ that definition.

Why is it important?

It’s no secret that healthcare textiles play a starring role in infection prevention. Textiles like scrubs, linen and gowns are what’s known as fomites, “objects capable of carrying an organism and serving as a reservoir that can be involved in transmission.” 

The ease with which healthcare textiles can transmit pathogens is precisely why a “hygienically clean” designation isn’t good enough. If you don’t know exactly how clean your linens are, how can you assess the effectiveness of your infection prevention plan?

How can you keep patients safe when using a third-party textile and laundry vendor?

Ask for documentation. If you provider claims their linen is hygienically clean, ask them for their definition and proof that it’s being met. Test results provided to you should be conducted by an independent, external lab.
Check for industry certification. Your best bet for industry certification is OSHA compliance.
Familiarize yourself with their process. So your provider has an ironclad wash process. But what happens after? Transportation of healthcare textiles is the weak link in the entire laundry process, so make sure your provider seals fresh textiles in barriers to prevent re-contamination, and confirm that they properly separate soiled linens from clean ones.

Is “hygienically clean” the only option?

Thankfully, no. At ImageFIRST®, we don’t use this designation, because it’s imprecise. Instead, all of our linen is sanitized, meaning that up to 99.999% of all pathogens have been eliminated from your healthcare textiles.

We deploy a Triple BioShield Protection® wash process that ensures pathogens are dead on contact, shields linens from re-contamination with a protective coating and wraps all products in plastic barriers to ensure that medical scrubs, uniforms, gowns and sheets in Seattle, WA are delivered to your patients as sanitized as when they left our laundry facilities. It’s all part of our AssuranceFIRST promise to our customers. To learn more about it, visit