To determine the effect of detergent-based cleaning on microbial load at near-patient sites on one ward over a 48 h period.
In a care-of-the-elderly assessment and rehabilitation ward.
Cleaning with fresh disposable detergent wipe (Tuffie detergent wipes, UK).
Wipes contain a mixture of non-ionic constituents at neutral pH.
Cleaning bed-frame components posed few practical problems: gaining access to the bedside lockers and overbed tables was difficult due to the quantity of patient belongings.
The quality of cleaning was standardised by preliminary training and assessment using microbiological methods.
Lockers, left and right bedrails and overbed tables in 30 bed spaces were screened for aerobic colony counts (ACC) and staphylococci (methicillin-susceptible and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus: MSSA/MRSA) before detergent-based cleaning.
Sites were rescreened at: 1, 2, 4, 8, 12, 24 and 48 h after cleaning.
Microbial growth was quantified as number of ACC/cm2 and presence of MSSA/MRSA at each site.
The study was repeated 3 times at monthly intervals.
There was a significant reduction in average ACC (360 sites) from a pre-clean level of 6.72 ACC/cm2 to 3.46 ACC/cm2 at 4 hours after detergent-based cleaning (P < 0.0001).
Average counts increased to 4.89 ACC/cm2 at 24 h and 5.27 ACC/cm2 at 48 h for all sites.
Levels on bed rails and lockers, but not overbed tables, fell below a proposed standard (5 cfu/cm2) for 24 h after cleaning.
MSSA/MRSA decreased 2–4 h after cleaning before increasing but failed to reach pre-clean levels.
Detergent cleaning reduces ACC at near-patient sites on a hospital ward.
S. aureus (including MRSA) was not completely eliminated but showed a similar pattern of decrease.
Microbial burden at high-risk sites beside the patient could potentially be controlled by daily cleaning with single-use detergent wipes.