Home Cleaning & Maintenance About Surface Infection & Some Laundry Chatter

About Surface Infection & Some Laundry Chatter

Glenn Hasek

Some random thoughts about a couple of matters after another interesting news week:

A subtle but potentially significant change in how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discusses the importance of surface touching in the spread of COVID-19. Whereas it previously mentioned surface touching in the same breath as person-to-person contact, the CDC now lists touching infected surfaces under a section entitled, “The virus does not spread easily in other ways.” In a nutshell, touching surfaces or objects is now not thought to be a main way the virus spreads. “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes…but we are still learning more about this virus,” the CDC says.

Should we all radically change our just-released cleaning and maintenance protocols? Not yet but do pay attention to developments around surface touching and COVID-19. They should influence how you allocate your time and dollars in the months ahead. Person-to-person contact—inhaling droplets from someone infected with COVID-19—is the main cause of the spread of the disease. You certainly should focus your efforts on social distancing, mask wearing, barriers, no-touch technology and products, and air filtration and purification.

Linen and Towel Reuse

The now very common towel and linen reuse practice was addressed in a roundabout way in a press release distributed by TRSA, the organization that represents companies that professionally launder linens, uniforms, towels, etc. In the release posted on Green Lodging News, TRSA suggests hotels’ laundering practices in the age of COVID-19 should go beyond that outlined in the recently released AHLA Safe Stay recommendations.

The Safe Stay document states, “Linens, towels and laundry shall be washed in accordance with CDC guidelines, including washing items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Where possible, launder items using the warmest permissible water setting for the items and dry items completely.”

TRSA, on the other hand, calls for hotels’ adoption of OSHA universal precautions (an approach to infection control to treat all human blood and certain human body fluids as if they were known to be infectious for HIV, HBV and other bloodborne pathogens) and to clean all textiles daily. “TRSA’s recommendation to clean all textiles daily (bed linens, towels, other items used by guests or staff) adds a frequency requirement missing from Safe Stay,” the release says.

TRSA President and CEO Joseph Ricci, whose members clean about 75 to 80 percent of the laundry from hotels, told me that hygiene is such a high focus right now and daily cleaning is what consumers are looking for. “We understand it is more expensive,” he says, adding that TRSA is working with AHLA and others. “We all need to partner on these things. Cleaning better will help bring consumers back.”

So, are we all going to drop our towel and linen reuse programs now? A step that could cost more money, more labor, more impact on the environment, etc.?

“Governors, mayors and city managers have been urged by TRSA to guide hoteliers to clean all textiles daily and handle their linen under OSHA universal precautions,” the release says.

I am not smart enough to know how much laundering is needed to properly address COVID-19 but I am smart enough to know our industry has a financial stake in laundering less often and TRSA’s members have a financial stake in laundering more often. I hope that is just me being cynical. Let’s hope we all find a common solution by working together.

I realize this is an evolving crisis and we all still have a lot to learn about COVID-19. Let’s all make sure we get to the facts about this insanity as fast as possible. There is so much at stake.

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