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How to clean disposable gowns and masks more safely

  • Testing by Nikwax shows disposable masks and gowns can be cleaned in a washing process whilst maintaining their functional qualities
  • The process could be rolled out quickly using existing cleaning facilities
  • Safely reusing disposable or single-use PPE could increase effective supply by 5 times in a crisis situation

    Health innovation to alleviate PPE crisis
    Nikwax, the UK’s leading producer of cleaning and waterproofing solutions for Outdoor Clothing, has created a new process to launder certain single-use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) more safely. Unlike existing cleaning methods, Nikwax ‘PPE Extension’ maintains the physical and water repellent properties needed to stop disease transmission. The innovation is a direct response to help in the global fight against COVID-19. It is aimed at situations where supply has run out and workers are at risk from over-extending the use of masks and gowns.

    A water repellent barrier to infection
    Existing hot washing methods disable disposable PPE by degrading its physical structure and destroying water repellency. Water repellency is key to ensuring PPE forms an effective barrier against infection from bodily fluids. Without it, PPE fabric and filters can become saturated, forming a fluid bridge across which infections are transmitted. Nikwax ‘PPE Extension’ ensures water repellency is restored and physical structure maintained. Nikwax has over 40 years’ experience in technical textile cleaning and waterproofing. The firm has received examples of typical masks and gowns from NHS Trusts, who have also supplied advice about existing cleaning processes in hospitals. Analysis, testing and development has shown that disposable FFP3 masks and clinical gowns could be cleaned up to five times without significant loss of functionality.Nikwax are publishing their full work, methods and arguments on their website, with the aim of extending the dialogue with professionals in this area.

    Re-usable gowns and masks would be a cheaper, more sustainable alternative
    Nick Brown, CEO and founder of Nikwax said, “COVID-19 has created a massive spike in demand for disposable PPE. Healthcare workers need the right equipment to help them stay safe and limit the spread of infection. We came up with a simple way of cleaning and restoring water repellency for outdoor gear in a washing machine many years ago. In the long-term, the right solution to this problem has to be equipment that has been designed to be re-used many times, and not thrown away after one use.”Throughout the world, PPE is largely single-use. Vast amounts are created, used for a short amount of time and then incinerated or sent to landfill. Finding ways to extend PPE’s lifespan safely not only increases the effective supply, but also creates clear environmental benefits. There are still logistical and communications barriers to overcome before the Nikwax process is widely adopted. However, a safe process to facilitate the re-use of protective equipment facilitates a cheaper, more strategically sound and environmentally friendly alternative to current systems.

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Stay healthy and stay safe

We are all currently affected by the global Coronavirus. At this unprecedented time, things can be worrying for everybody, but it is important for all that we follow the measures being put in place. The key one right now is, of course, social distancing.

We all need that moment of fresh air and exercise, but it is imperative that when doing so, we are not putting ourselves, or others at risk. The outdoor world is very important for us all – it benefits us physically as well as mentally, however, we have to be very safe outdoors.

Here are some tips to help!

First and foremost – keep it local! Do not drive unnecessarily. Even in densely populated areas, you are likely to find a form of ‘green space’. Stay safe and stay local to you.

Any exercise you look to undertake outdoors, e.g. a bike ride, a walk, a run, you should look to do on your own.

Keep your distance! Be sure to maintain wide berth from others – 2 metres being the advice given.

If you have a garden then utilise this space. Find exercises that you can do to match the size of your outdoor space. For instance, smaller outdoor spaces could allow exercise such as yoga, and if you have a larger space, then sprints and interval training are great for keeping fit.

Gardens and outdoor spaces at home are beneficial for children – look into activities and outdoor learning that you could incorporate for them. Perhaps set them up with a nature watch – what birds can they see? Can they draw some of the plants? Fresh air combined with a creative activity helps both mentally and physically.

Use the internet to help inspire you to stay active, mentally or physically, at this time. For children, there is the already popular morning PE lesson with The Body Coach, Joe Wicks – streaming daily via his YouTube channel. You can also visit websites, such as The Scout’s Association – The Great Indoors, which contains so many different creative activities to keep your children busy. For adults, you can find all manner of exercise videos you can follow. Perhaps look closer at your local area – some fitness groups are running specific online classes that you can sign up to and do from the comfort of your home. Perhaps download a talking book – then go and sit in your outdoor space, or an area of comfort and drift away into another world for a while.

If you are mourning the loss of a holiday, have a home holiday – set up a tent and spend the night al fresco, you will see your garden in a whole new light! If you don’t have your own outdoor space, you can create a home holiday indoors and have a little ‘camp out’ for something just a bit different to break up the boredom!

Use this as a time to plan… Get a jar or a pot and when you think of something you really want to do once this is over, write it down and pop it in the pot. It can a be a time of planning for some really fun future outdoor adventures; at the end you can go back and read all of your notes and start putting your plans into action!

Lastly, stay in touch with your family and friends via calls, messages and video get-togethers! If you have been doing any fun activities then tell them all about it and inspire others with ways to get through this.