In many long-term care facilities, on-premise laundries, or OPLs, operated under less-than-optimal conditions before the pandemic. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has put more of a focus than ever on them.

As the nation turned its attention toward facilities at the beginning of the global pandemic, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living warned laundries to up their cleaning and disinfection practices. AHCA/NCAL urged departments to use products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims as one of the best defenses against COVID-19.

“We always recommend laundry managers work closely with their chemical company to meet current recommendations,” says Randy Radtke, a spokesperson for Ripon, WI-based Alliance Laundry Systems. “Heat, obviously, remains a key factor in assisting with disinfection of loads.”

Quentiel Jamerson, senior product consultant, environmental, Direct Supply, believes COVID-19 generally has hit smaller facilities particularly hard.

“The most common variable has been process,” he adds. “Buildings that did not have a defined process have essentially had to start from scratch.” 

Another critical impediment, he says, is a lack of adequate space.

“Some [facilities] have the luxury of dedicating an entire wing or area of the building to residents who tested positive for COVID-19,” Jamerson says. “Some facilities even have dedicated kitchens, laundry areas, rehab and social spaces, and can be fully functional without accessing other parts of the building. This has not been the reality for most buildings.”

Smaller washers and dryers also may pose a problem because they can’t reach the water temperature required for hygienically clean standards or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, said David Potack, president of Unitex.

Radtke believes challenges are only going to mount.

“As we move forward in a post-COVID-19 world, it’s not going to be enough to just launder linens according to prescribed guidelines,” he says. Greater documentation demands will be common, he believes.