Concerns About Covid-19 Updated
The Guild of Cleaners and Launderers is the professional, qualifying body for the textile care industry; due to concerns about hygiene in low temperature processing, which includes Professional Wet Cleaning and washing at less than 40⁰C; we had the foresight to engage the University of Northumbria to conduct original research into Low Temperature Processing; financing this with the help of match funding from the Worshipful Company of Launderers, this was before we had any knowledge of Corona Virus, but we were concerned that in the future the U.K. might be subjected to a flu epidemic. We wanted to be sure that we could have confidence in the hygiene of our processes. The outcome of this research proved that wet cleaning/washing at, or below, 30°C, microorganisms, which includes viruses, are not eliminated unless a bactericide, such as the peroxy bleach PAP6*, is added. The research also proved that no microorganisms survived dry cleaning in Perchloroethylene. PAP is a preformed peracid patented and developed by Solvay and supplied, or included in products, by many of the usual chemical supply companies. (phthalimido-peroxy-hexanoic acid (PAP)) PAP Peroxy Bleach is marketed under *Solvay’s Eureco Trademark and they are also suppliers to end product blenders and manufacturers.
Our Guild is supported by less than 10% of those operating in the business sector and sadly this low number, contributed to the financial constraints of the cost of the research, leading to other higher wash temperatures and other dry-cleaning solvents not being studied which limited the results of this research, although what we have has still been of great benefit to our industry’s knowledge base. A major result is that we now know that microorganisms can survive on textiles for a long time after contact before cleaning/washing and the analysis showed that on wool they survived longer than 28 days, on cotton Klebsiella Pneumoniae survived 11 days, and it is pneumonia that can be a result of contracting Covid-19, the corona virus. On 100% polyester, microorganisms survived only for 5 days but this is still a long time for items to carry infection.
The research also showed that wet cleaning, or low temperature washing products, should have the benefit of PAP6*, or an equivalent product, to ensure that microorganisms are eliminated during the process. It was also observed in the research that some products with PAP 6 are also of a high alkalinity and therefore users should be aware of the dangers of wet cleaning/washing wool and silks at higher alkali levels because they are sensitive and could be damaged.
The final observation from the research is that dry cleaning in the chlorinated solvent perchloroethylene showed no sign of cross contamination and that any microorganisms are unlikely to survive the cleaning process, but it did prove that, as you would expect, that the most contaminated area of any retail cleaning business is the customer reception area therefore surfaces should be regularly cleaned with an alcohol based cleaning product, rather than a chlorine based domestic bleach. It was thought that the solvent perc proved effective because it is toxic, a property that has in the past received criticism from supporters of alternatives to dry cleaning systems. As previously mentioned, alternative dry-cleaning solvents were not investigated due to the substantial additional financial costs.
Going forward, it is recommended that the industry review and update process systems and improve hygiene standards by ensuring all microorganisms are eliminated during the cleaning process, by water or solvent, before Government legislation enforces acceptable hygiene standards. Currently, our processes, in the main, only dilute the quantity of virus not necessarily kill them. It is not just cleanliness that is important to customers, they should also be able to rely upon our services to return an item that is free of microorganisms as well as free from stains and inappropriate creases. The health care sector advise washing at higher temperatures to ensure hygiene standards and laundries set up to process this kind of work deliver high standards of hygiene on a daily basis.
Being realistic all fabrics, and structured garments are not constructed to withstand this type of Health Service process but Covid-19 is now a wakeup call affecting the whole world and the technology does exist to ensure a more hygienic end product processed at a lower temperature; now that the industry is aware of serious hygiene issues relating to low temperature processing it is in the interests of us all to put in place processes that ensure personal clothing is hygienically cleaned.
What a marketing opportunity missed because we cannot, at present, advise our customers to have their garments cleaned to reduce their risk of picking up, or passing on the virus, but if we get our house in order it could be just as important to them as washing hands is at present. At this difficult time hygiene will be seen as a critical aspect of our services and it may offer some reassurance to our customers if we have available a hygiene product, such as PAP6, as part of our service. However, when using this product particular care needs to be taken to ensure the correct dosage or concentrations are delivered. The cleaner should also ensure the type of product used is suitable for silk, sensitive, and woolen fabrics when processing this classification.
* PAP: 6-phthalimido peroxy hexanoic acid has become increasingly popular in consumer and professional detergent markets and in personal care products. It is known for its effectiveness in removing stubborn stains (grass, tea, coffee, tomato, etc.), getting rid of malodour and in killing germs, bacteria and fungi on textiles and hard surfaces. Solvay/Eureco is a Belgian chemical company with manufacturing facilities in the UK.