How often should hospital privacy curtains be changed?

The topic of hospital privacy curtains is a hotly debated and sometimes controversial subject. This dilemma is a struggle for medical professionals because many have identified the curtains as frequent causes of cross-contamination. The risk of cross-contamination is a result of the curtains being touched frequently and infrequently changed. Experts are constantly investigating this, by looking into the textiles and their transmission of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDRO’s).

Hospital Privacy Curtains: Breeding ground for bacteria?

As a result, privacy curtains are seen as a breeding ground for bacteria, posing an issue within a sterile medical environment.
Their studies indicate that the microorganisms shed by patients can contaminate hospital surfaces. These pathogens survive and remain for extended periods of time, despite attempts to disinfect and remove them. These microorganisms can be transferred to the hands of healthcare workers, putting not only patients at risk but staff too.

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When do you need to change hospital privacy curtains?

Hospital privacy curtains have to be cleaned and changed whenever there are noticeable stains on them. Regardless of how long the curtain has been up, if there are any marks, they must be immediately disposed of. Also change or clean them would be when a patient is discharged, and you have to prepare for another patient.
However, there are no regulations for when you actually have to clean or change the curtains. The Health and Social Care Act 2008 does state that a clean environment needs to be maintained in managed premises. The Code of Practice also states that “Curtains/ blinds should be visibly clean with no blood or body substances, dust, dirt, debris, stains or spillages”.

There is no set requirement to change or wash privacy curtains on a regular basis. As a result, this can make it difficult to know what you have to do. Keep an eye out for dirt, as this is a sign the privacy curtains need to be replaced.


How to clean hospital curtains?

Hospitals can outsource their cleaning services to healthcare cleaning agencies because it is a more practical solution. Sometimes there is no room in the hospital for cleaning to be done. Sometimes, the only option is to get your hospital privacy curtains cleaned by a private company. You can find a launderer that handles the deliveries and inventory management of your curtains. This makes the cleaning process as quick and easy as possible. Using a private company can alleviate stress as they will have pre-existing knowledge of the standard you have to maintain.


What sort of hospital privacy curtains are used?

Concerns over the bacteria and infections lingering on privacy curtains mean that many were opting for disposable curtains. However, these were only really effective if changed regularly. Whilst there is an initial saving when you purchase the disposable curtains. This is short-lived as a repercussion of the increasing cost created when you have to constantly replace them.

Disposable curtains also increase hospital waste. Many manufacturers offer recyclable products; however, disposables still end up in general or clinical waste. If you were to completely stretch your disposable curtain then they could hang for a few months. However, within a few weeks, these curtains can house an excessive number of bugs and viruses that can be easily transferred. Therefore, they have to be changed frequently, making reusable curtains a significantly better option in the long run.


Reusable and washable curtains provide not only clinical benefits but environmental ones too. Their benefits include:

  • patient comfort
  • A reduction of long-term costs
  • A decrease of waste
  • Sustainability
  • A good quality reusable curtain can last up to ten years.

However, they are not without their negatives.

When you factor in the amount of employee time spent washing and cleaning fabric curtains, the cost can be greater.


Hospitals and GP surgeries have moved towards preferring disposable curtains as being the better of two options.


What should you take away from the cleaning of hospital curtains?

Hospital privacy curtains are primarily cleaned and maintained based on personal judgment and incentive. Several options of privacy curtains can be used to keep a hospital environment clean. Generally speaking, staying sterile and free of infections and bacteria is all you need to ensure. Whilst privacy curtains are important for the patient’s comfort, they need to be clinically safe for the staff too.