Therapeutic support surfaces are an investment in pressure management, and if you own one or more it's fair to say that investment doesn't come cheap. However, over time this equipment can lose therapeutic value, and it often starts to stink. Most insurance companies will not replacea support surface unless it's over three years old, and most manufacturer warranties only cover one year. However, you can dramatically prolong the life of this equipment well beyond it's expected life with some simple maintenance.
Keep It Clean
At least once per month you should take a moist cloth and wipe the patient surface to remove debris. You can use gentle soaps that are skin friendly, just make sure that you use a wet cloth to remove any residual soap from the surface and let the surface dry completely before laying the patient back in bed. If the surface is beyond a gentle wipe you should probably launder it. Most air surfaces and higher end foam mattresses have a removable cover or topsheet. We actually remove these, spray them with a germicide, and launder them. A warm wash and air dry (dryer setting) works best. However, make sure you read your manufacturer's cleaning guidelines (in the operations manual) to make sure this is OK.
Most powered units have an intake filter of some type. This filter removes the particulates from room air before sending it through the pump/blower. Over time these particulates collect and will affect how your pump operates. Think of it as similar to the filters in your HVAC system at home. You should clean these at least once per month, and wash them as needed. Some units come with replacement filters. If your filter is shot call your DME provider and get a new one. Don't just discard the old filter and run the unit without one. Over time you will get a buildup inside the unit that will ruin it.
If your bed starts to stink it's time for a deep clean. We clean every mattress between patien use with this method to eliminate the risk of cross contamination, eliminate odors, and ensure that the mattress stays working well beyond the expected three year useful life. Over prolonged periods of time sweat, urine, exudate, and other contaminates may permiate the top sheet and can settle into the air cells. This is a major contributor of that nasty smell in a patient's room.
- Remove any visable debris from the patient surface using a moist cloth. Do not use oil based cleaning products. This will stain your cover.
- Remove the cover/top sheet from the bed and saturate it with a hospital grade germicide. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes (or the required time according to your germicide instructions)
- Remove the air cells, plumbing, and foam base (if the bed has one) from the base and set aside
- Spray down the outer base with germicide and let it sit. After the required dwell time wipe the base down. If you base is made of canvas or cloth you can launder it with the top sheet (double check manufacturer's cleaning instructions to make sure that the laundry is safe for your unit. If it made from a plastic material you can hand wash it
- Saturate all of the air cells and thing foam base (if the mattress has one) with germicide and let sit for the suggested dwell time
- Get to scrubbing. Wipe down every air cell and the foam base. Pay extra attentio to the air cells in the middle of the bed as they are often the most likely to smell. You may have to do this a couple of times to remove light odors. Make sure that you do not get liquid inside the air cells or plumbing. Moisture in the closed system could cause mold and mildew. Do not put cells or plumbing into your washing machine.
- Let everything hang dry.
- Once dry double check to make sure that the odor is gone. If the odor remains you can use a vinegar solution (50% white vinegar and 50% water) by soaking the cells and letting it sit. The vinegar will break down the residual amonia. After it sets for 30 minutes to an hour wipe all of the cells down with water to make sure the vinegar is removed and hang dry. If all is good, and the components are dry reassemble the mattress and test it's functionality.
Many DME providers will clean and/or deodorize your mattress for a fee. We typically have access to higher end cleaning supplies such as hospital grade germicides, enzyme breaks, and other chemicals. It's not a bad idea to send the mattress in to them at least once annually. It's not free, but it will help you keep this expensive piece of equipment running for years. They can also give your control unit a preventive maintenance check. Think of this as your oil change. You don't want to do it, but not doing it can be worse. Ask your DME provider what their process is to make sure that it meets the above listed standards. You should get back a clean mattress, a properly functioning control unit, and the paperwork that says it has a clean bill of health.
Please remember that these steps are all general. Before going through this process check your user's manual and research the cleaning products you use to make sure they meet the requirements and won't cause issues down the road. If you aren't sure call the DME provider you purchased the bed from and see what they use. Maybe they will sell you a little. We use Citrus II as our general germicide, and during the wash we add a little gentle detergent and a scoop of Oxyclean.
Get Some Back-Up Covers
It never hurts to purchase an extra top sheet or cover. This way if you just need to launder it you can throw a clean one on without having to inconvenience the patient. They can get right back to bed and on their therapeutic support surface in less than 10 minutes. Your DME provider should be able to sell these to you. This is another key point to making sure your mattress lasts longer. The cleaner you keep the surface, the less chance that it will become compromised and let the stink bugs get through to the air cells.
That's it! You are now an expert in the cleaning and maintenance of your therapeutic support surface. If you are in the Southwest or Central Idaho area and want us to check out your equipment, let us know. We clean and repair DME all the time. We'll even give you 10% off of your first cleaning or repair.