One of the most important topics in the healthcare design industry is infection control –designing a space that is beautiful, durable, functional and that helps prevent the spread of germs and disease. Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are infections patients can get while receiving medical treatment in a healthcare facility. They are considered a major, yet often preventable, threat to patient safety.

While there has been consistent and measurable progress in reducing HAI occurrences in the last 5 years, it is still estimated that 1 in 25 hospital patients have at least one HAI. Annually, these conditions are estimated to cost the healthcare industry $9.8BN. Hand hygiene and good infection control protocols are critical – but choosing the right textile has an important part to play in reducing the spread of infections and bacteria. Here are some things to consider when picking a textile:

Clean According the Care Guide

Each furniture item should have a care guide describing how to safely and effectively clean it, and what types of cleaners can be used. If a piece is dirty, first remove the soil with a mixture of water and detergent. Then, disinfect the item with a healthcare grade disinfectant, paying attention to the dwell time recommended by the manufacturer. Finally, lightly wipe the disinfected item with clear water to remove the chemical residue. 

Say No to Fabrics

Avoid wovens – fabric has the potential to add interest and warmth to a space, but it’s also porous and a trap for bacteria. The CDC recommends that wovens be replaced altogether in the event of a bio spill, so for cost and safety reasons, fabric should be eliminated from consideration altogether.

Beware of Polyurethane

Polyurethanes have been a popular choice for the past few years – these coated textiles are more environmentally friendly than vinyl as they don’t contain PVC (poly vinyl chloride). However, users are increasingly finding that Polyurethane isn’t holding up to the harsh disinfectants and cleaners needed to ensure bacteria is killed, resulting in additional cost to reupholster or replace items. We recommend that polyurethanes be used sparingly – on lower touch surfaces or in lower acuity areas.

When in Doubt, Go with Vinyl

Vinyl, despite some environmental concerns, remains the most durable and cost effective choice for demanding healthcare spaces. We recommend choosing a high quality, healthcare grade vinyl that is chemically compatible with the specific disinfectants and cleansers currently in use. A clean water rinse after disinfection is complete is critical to prolong the life of the textile and ensure that no build up of chemicals occur.

Choosing the right textile can be challenging! We know it’s important to find the right balance between aesthetics, durability and cleanability to ensure a safe, quality experience for your patients. National Business Furniture is here to help! We have design consultants on staff to help healthcare professionals plan safe, comfortable and beautiful spaces that will perform in the most demanding of environments. Call us today at 800-558-1010 to take advantage of our free design services.


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