Specialised Cleaning - The Science of Mattress Sanitisation


Why must mattresses be sanitized and not just cleaned? Lee Kelman, Managing Director, Hydrogulf Cleantech Middle East, explores...


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Specialised Cleaning
December 1, 2017
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Specialised Cleaning - The Science of Mattress Sanitisation

The understanding of cleanliness at a microbiological level has increased tenfold in recent years. However, the mattress, which we spend almost one-third of our life on, can be one of the most neglected items in terms of hygiene. Our bodies continually shed skin, which along with hair, dried sweat and other bodily fluids builds up on the mattress surface, working through mattress protectors. Decomposition of dead skin leads to the formation of bacteria and other microbes that are an ideal food source for dust mites. Dust mite growth increases in hot, humid environments, making the GCC region particularly susceptible. Vacuuming alone or cleaning with water/detergents will not fully eradicate bacteria, pathogens and dust mites found on the mattress surface. Mattress sanitisation ensures that all micro-organisms (which cannot be seen by the naked eye) on the mattress surface are fully eradicated, and odours eliminated, which indicates that the mattress is completely clean and free from bacteria.

A haven for microbes

As per recent statistics, the rate of residents suffering from allergic asthma has increased by 74 per cent since 1990 (Source: Center for Disease Control), and dust mites are known to be a key asthma trigger. Along with dust mites, mattresses are known to be a haven for harmful bacteria, fungi and even dangerous mould, which can be hazardous to health. During testing, the micro-organisms found on mattresses included Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Citrobacter diversus and Candida albicans among others. In summary, the reality is that the bed (particularly a multi-used, high traffic bed) is dirtier than the handle of a public toilet. Therefore, the effects of not sanitising are potential illness through exposure to bacteria and heightened levels of allergens.

Mattress sanitization

The RemUVe® sanitisation device is one of the most environmentally-friendly, non-chemical, high performance mattress sanitising machines available in the world. It sanitises using a safe, odourless and non-toxic GUVL (Germicidal Ultra Violet Light) guaranteed to destroy harmful microorganisms. RemUVe® has been certified by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Australia, as a Grade-1 Medical Device which provides superior mattress sanitising.

The first step of the process is a physical check of the bed for any insects, followed by the vacuuming of the mattress by a high powered commercial vacuum. The operator then sanitises the mattress by placing the RemUVe® machine on the surface. The GUVL light from the 6 UV lamps eradicates all the bacteria from it. It is to be noted that RemUVe® is a quick, steam free and chemical free procedure that leaves the mattress available to be used immediately.

The technology

The fundamentals of UV light technology are generally misunderstood. There is an assumption that blue glowing light is UVC and that waving it over an object will kill bacteria/germs. This of course is incorrect – much research and development is required in order to design an effective UV sanitization device. It is important to understand that every microorganism has its own Total UV Dosage (TUVD) value, expressed as microwatt seconds per centimeter square. To be able to guarantee successful sanitisation, you must know the Total UV Dosage required. For example, to guarantee a minimum 99.99% kill rate against E-coli, the required total UV dosage is 6,600 μWsec/cm², but the same kill rate against Bacillus subtilis spores requires 60,000 μWsec/ cm². This is the fundamental principal of UV disinfection – you must know the most UV resistant micro-organism that requires to be controlled.

The basic principles are as follows, energy x time = dose. UVC, multiplied by the amount of time required to achieve the dose. The RemUVe® machine has 6 UV lamps each emitting a set level of UVC light, which has been calculated to guarantee elimination of microorganisms. The machine is placed on the mattress for ten seconds (maximum time required to ensure ‘guaranteed sanitisation’) and at the beep is pushed to the next section of the bed, continuing until complete coverage has been achieved (less than 3 minutes).

A marketing tool

The launch of RemUVe® to the region’s commercial market at the MECTW 2016 event attracted a lot of interest at the HydroGulf stand. The technology was displayed and explained and many demonstrations were booked at hotels around the region in the following weeks. The process has been marketed at hotels and other multi-use room facilities (boarding, etc.) initially, and uptake from the domestic market has also been steady, especially for those families suffering from allergies and chronic illness.

Mattress cleaning is a mandatory requirement by the Tourism Authorities in the UAE, and hotels must ensure that the company they use is validated and certified. Certification is provided to hotels demonstrating that they have a mattress sanitization program in place, and website marketing is also provided, allowing the hotel to add the Mattress Sanitised Compliant stamp to the hotel website. As well as the standard mattress sanitisation service (6-monthly), hotels are able to offer a pre-check-in sanitisation service for guests, for example those with allergies, this enables the property to profit from the provided service, as these guests are more than happy to pay a small fee to have their mattress sanitised prior to their arrival.

Health and safety

To ensure the safety and integrity of the UV system, a specialized UV company in Australia, was consulted. The partner company has spent in excess of 14 million dollars on research and development, in determining the most effective methods of using germicidal ultra violet lamps. The process is completely safe, environmentally friendly, chemical and steam free. GUVL is safe, unless you look straight at it. The device has an automatic cut-off safety feature, meaning if the unit is tilted when on, it shuts down. RemUVe® has been thoroughly tested for occupational exposure to ultraviolet radiation by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. The Exposure Limit (EL) for the wavelength 254nm was >0.0001 mJ/cm², and is therefore well within the 6 mJ/cm² EL specified for an 8 hour working day.

All in all, although people are aware of mattress cleanliness, there is some confusion between cleaning and sanitization, and it needs highlighted that by simply vacuuming and washing mattress toppers, allergens and bacteria are remaining on the mattress. Within a 12-month period, we expect that mattress sanitisation will simply be seen as a general part of housekeeping, as it is in other parts of the world.

About the author: Lee Kelman is the Managing Director of HydroGulf Cleantech Middle East. His extensive experience over the past 15 years in the field of mattress hygiene in Australia has resulted in the adoption of remUVe - the Germicidal Ultra Violet Light (GUVL) based technology in many prestigious properties in Australia and New Zealand.