Before we start, there’s no two ways about it, this subject is not one for reading over lunch! Sluice cycles are most often used in the social care setting, as they’re an essential for laundry that has been contaminated with solids such as faecal matter or vomit.
The first thing to note is that linen contaminated in this way should be transported to the laundry facility in a separate specific laundry bag which can then be placed directly into the washer. This reduces the likelihood of staff coming into contact with the contaminated linen and reduces the opportunity for cross infection.
If laundry contaminated in this way is washed without using a sluice cycle, the likelihood is that the linen will come out at the end of the wash cycle still contaminated (albeit with smaller, slightly better smelling particles – sorry you were warned!).
The sluice cycle is run at the beginning of the wash cycle in order to remove the solid particles prior to any detergent etc being added. It does this by having one or two high level cold-water pre-rinses with agitation. This helps the solid matter to become dislodged from the linen, and enter suspension in the water.
Washers with sluice cycles have a large diameter dump valve (the method by which the water leaves the washer) allowing the water and suspended matter to easily pass out of the machine and into the drain before the main wash cycle starts. It is important that these machines are WRAS approved to prevent backflow contamination to the water supply.
Because of the type of soiling involved, if a sluice cycle has been used, a thermal disinfection cycle should then be used as a matter of course. This will ensure the linen is thoroughly disinfected and left hygienically clean.