Laundering has often been a problem for medical sheepskins. This was partly related to poor tanning, but also due to hospitals directing skins to inappropriate washing regimes.
Until recently, all medical sheepskins were to be laundered at not more than 60'C for a period of eight minutes. This was the maximum safe temperature for repeated washing of the leather. At this temperature and time there was minimal thermal disinfection, so a bacteriostat was required for disinfection.
The major problems occurred when skins from infectious wards were included in the sealed bags for the high temperature 80'C 'infectious wash'. Not only was this wash at a temperature too extreme for the majority of sheepskins, but also the wash frequently contained chemicals irreversibly harmful to chrome tanned sheepskins.
Recent Laundering Improvements
To overcome the problems associated with laundering, and also problems with the previous specification, a new Australian Standard has been prepared by Standards Australia based on recent CSIRO research.
Two new products are covered by the new Australian Standard, and are color-coded for correct dispatch to the laundry.
- Regtemp (Blue) for conventional 60'C chemical disinfection
- Hitemp (Green) for 80'C high level thermal disinfection.
Lambskins are recommended, as there is minimum felting and pilling of the wool during use and laundering.
Under the new Australian Standard, the real breakthrough has been the development of the Hitemp standard for Australian Medical Sheepskins.
Previously sheepskins could not be routinely washed at 80'C. At this temperature the skins are thermally disinfected and a bacteriostat is no longer required.
However, it should be noted that alkali, hydrogen peroxide, phosphates, bleaches and enzymes should not be used at any time since they will irreversibly damage the leather of the sheepskins.
The development is extremely timely because in the future, with increasing resistance of organisms to chemical or biological treatments, it may be necessary for all institutional laundering to be performed at 80'C to ensure adequate disinfection.
Report submitted by
Dr Ken Montgomery
Division of Wool Technology
Leather Research Centre
(AS 4480.1, 1997 - Table A9.2.3)
WASH FORMULATION FOR HITEMP MEDICAL SHEEPSKINS (COLOR CODE: GREEN)
HIGH LEVEL THERMAL DISINFECTION BASED ON AS 4146 - 1994 (MODIFICATION II)
* In this case (for Hitemp products) disinfection is obtained through washing at an elevated temperature. However, unlike infectious wash formulae in many hospitals, the procedure for chrome tanned medical sheepskins must NOT contain any enzymes, alkali, phosphate, peroxides or bleaches - these products cause rapid and irreversible damage, shrinkage and hardening of chrome tanned leathers.