Garment Care and Cleaning

Protect Yourself & Others by Cleaning and Caring for Your Protective Apparel 

Infection control within healthcare facilities has always been paramount, but the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified cleaning efforts like never before. Increased protocols for porous and non-porous surfaces are designed to contain contaminations and halt infections from spreading.


Given this unprecedented time of stepped-up protocols, what are the care and cleaning guidelines for radiation protective apparel?

First, we offer the following general spot cleaning tips for protective aprons:

  • Most dirt and water-soluble stains, including blood, body fluids, and barium contrast media can be removed using mild household dishwashing liquid-type soaps/detergents diluted in cold water and a soft-bristle brush.
  • Rinse with water and hang to dry.
  • Quaternary ammonium cleaners/disinfectants (QATS) such as DisCide and Sani Cloth may also be used.
  • Avoid using petroleum-based cleaning solvents or solutions containing bleach.
  • Test for colourfastness in an inconspicuous area.
  • Do not machine wash or machine dry.
  • Deep cleanings should be done by a professional x-ray garment cleaning company such as Radiological Care Services (RCS).
  • Bar-Ray recommends that facilities establish a documented, regular schedule of deep cleaning and disinfection of radiation protection garments to assist in mitigating the risk of pathogen transmission.
  • See all of Bar-Ray’s general apron cleaning and storing tips here.


How could protective garments harbour pathogens?

The outer layer, which could be either porous or non-porous, regularly comes into contact with surfaces, patients, and other objects that may contain pathogens. Meantime, the porous fabric inside an aprons, vest & skirts or Thyroid Shields/Collars could absorb sweat and/or harbour pathogens that can be transferred from one wearer to another if the garment is shared.


What’s the latest research related to protective garments?

Research related to COVID-19 is ongoing, including these 2020 findings:

Quaternary ammonium cleaners and disinfectants (QATS or QACs) are proven to be effective against influenza viruses, and Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial strains. QACs refer to chemicals that kill bacteria, viruses, and mould. The findings of a recent study suggest that QACs “should be effective in decreasing the viral load for disinfection procedures against COVID-19.” QATs such as DisCide and Sani Cloth may be used on protective aprons.

Additionally, the article “Periop Nursing Team Discovers Ringworm in X-Ray Garments” (2020) explains how garment cleaning in an Indiana hospital’s perioperative area discovered the presence of the fungus ringworm. This led to a facility-wide initiative to protect both patients and staff from infection caused by contaminated x-ray aprons. “I advocated the use of peroxide-based wipes is used on x-ray garments in between scheduled professional cleanings provided by our cleaning company,” says the perioperative nursing director. 

And, colonies of Staph aureus and Tinea corporis (ringworm) were found on x-ray aprons worn by interventional radiology staff, according to research at Wayne State University of Detroit Medical Center (Jaber, Harvill, Qiao, 2014). Interestingly, the researchers noted that regulatory agencies require annual fluoroscopy documentation on x-ray aprons to ensure wearers are protected from scatter radiation; however, at that time, there were no regulations for the cleaning and disinfection of these items.


What are the key takeaways regarding current and future cleaning policies related to protective garments?

Before the pandemic, some hospitals may not have had cleaning procedures for protective apparel in place. Amid the current COVID-19 landscape, some hospitals may be including these vital garments in their updated cleaning guidelines.

  • Eliminating the sharing of aprons and other protective apparel is key to halting the potential spread of pathogens.
  • The second key is a cleaning policy addressing both staff procedures and regular deep cleaning by professionals.