Disinfecting Hospital Mattresses?

I received this question and thought it would be a good one for discussion. Their question is below:

“I would like to get the facts straight regarding cleaning of hospital mattress. I see a lot of misinformation regarding the use of germicides on mattress surfaces. The EPA confirmed that modern mattress surfaces are considered soft porous surfaces and therefore the use of products labeled for use on hard surfaces is an off label use of the product. I have also noticed that hospital bed manufactures care and use instructions warn about using high PH products to clean their mattress and bed decks. Therefore I see a problem. What disinfectant and or germicides are approved for use (EPA,CDC etc.) on Hill-Rom Stryker etc. beds and mattress?”
My Answer Below
A-H-H. the horns of a dilemma. We bought 360 new patient’s bed mattresses last year. Within 3 months, we started noticing that some of the new mattresses were displaying bleached out areas like you would see if you washed a dark surface with a muddy cloth. As you might have guessed, the damage was caused by wiping the new mattresses with Dispatch bleach wipes.
When it was brought to the attention of the mattress sales rep, she was stumped. Her reply was, “Nobody told us you would be using bleach on these. Of course it will damage the surface over time.” My reply was, “Somebody should have asked the folks who do the discharge cleaning what they use to clean/disinfect mattresses. They would have told you, we disinfect everything with Wex-cide phenolic disinfectant. It has a low pH (4.5) and is tuberculocidal. That is, everything BUT C-diff. Then we use bleach wipes by Dispatch. Those damaged mattresses have had Dispatch used on them at a C-diff terminal cleaning.”
After two months, she came back to say that the label on the Dispatch product states that it is to be used to disinfect, “Hard, nonporous surfaces. So, if you use it on mattress covers like ours that are soft surfaces, you are in violation of the disinfectant label.”
I had to wrap my head in duct tape to keep it from exploding!
“WE BOUGHT THE WRONG MATTRESSES THEN!” I replied. “We have to use an EPA-registered disinfectant with a C-diff kill claim. Right now, there is only one non-bleach C-diff kill claim product and it smells like you stuck your nose in a bottle of vinegar. Personally, I prefer a bleach smell to a vinegar smell and so do our patients.”
She states that there is no danger of strike-through of the bleach or other body fluids through the bleached out areas. It’s just that over time, those areas will lose their elasticity and possibly become brittle and prone to cracking. At that point, the 10-year warranty is null and void because you have damaged it with an improper cleaning product.”
Where’s my duct tape??!!
Because the patient’s mattress can become of “bowl of C-diff soup” due to the poor, debilitated patient experiencing bowel incontinence, we have to protect our patients, break the chain of infection and deal with the consequences of shortened mattress life.
One very viable alternative to this problem is to use a room disinfection system (vapor or UV-C light waves) with a C-diff claim. Then, you could merely clean the mattress with a good neutral or heavy duty cleaner and microfiber cloth, and then position the mattress, leaning against the side of the bed so it can be disinfected on the top, sides and bottom (as well as the bed deck).
I believe in the very near future we will see new products emerging that will kill C-diff spores on both hard, nonporous and soft porous (i.e., cubicle curtains, upholstered furniture and soft mattress covers).
Stay tuned..

About Darrel Hicks

J. Darrel Hicks, B.A., is the author of Wiley Publishing's "Infection Prevention For Dummies", and is nationally recognized as one of the top experts in infection control. Darrel Hicks is also the Past President of the IEHA and is an active member in AHE where he holds the designation of CHESP. View all posts by Darrel Hicks

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