The regular cleaning of hospitals is vital work, yet despite rigorous protocols, such sanitisation remains costly and incompletely effective. Hospitals often become major sources of avoidable infection, creating human costs and financial burdens for health systems. With EU funding, the CLEANWARD (Safe, chemical-free, cleaning of hospital ward surfaces) project promised more hygienic hospital practices. The consortium proposed a new, antimicrobial cleaning system able to be retrofitted to existing equipment. The idea combines mop fabrics coated with titanium dioxide, which reacts with water and UV light, to quickly kill microorganisms and without chemicals. The fabric was designed for reuse without risk of contamination. The system is also intended to substantially reduce costs. The team first designed and fabricated a prototype. Researchers separately tested both the UV water disinfection unit and the light-emitting diode (LED)-UV subsystem intended for the microfibre cloth, and then tested the integrated system. The UV water disinfection unit and UV mercury lamps achieved 100 % microbe removal within 5 minutes. The LED-UV chambers killed 99.8 % of microbes in 20 minutes or longer. Further testing showed that mop fabrics collect bacteria from the floor and transfer microbes to the bucket water. This introduced the challenge of preventing transference by killing bacteria in the bucket, which the team solved using a filter/UV water disinfection unit. Continuous operation of the UV water disinfection unit demonstrated effective removal of microbial contaminants from the water. The unit was implemented as a core component of the prototype intended for realistic hospital trials. Analysis showed that the CLEANWARD prototypes offer health and safety benefits. The system also reduces environmental impact since no chemical or landfill disposal is required. Researchers additionally demonstrated the prototype system's cost savings. Project members organised several European trade shows, which stimulated numerous expressions of interest. The team also participated in various international conferences, resulting in exposure to potential stakeholders. The CLEANWARD system offers an innovative combination of cleaning materials and chemical-free technologies. Results mean more effective cleaning and reduced hospital infections, at a lower financial and environmental cost.
Hospitals, cleaning, mop fabrics, microbe removal, infection, CLEANWARD, chemical-free