disposable vs reusable curtains
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Disposable vs Reusable Curtains for Healthcare

The debate over whether to use disposable or washable curtains in a healthcare setting has been a dilemma for hospital and GP surgery purchasers for years. But now there is a new solution, which can save thousands in waste, facilities, and laundry costs.

Even though there has been continuous advances in medical hygiene as our knowledge and experience of infection control improves, there still seems to be a problem in the healthcare industry with cubicle curtains being infected with multiple strains of bacteria and viruses.

Research by the University of Manitoba in Canada recorded the contamination of curtains at a hospital and the findings were published in the American Journal of Infection Control. According to the study’s lead author, privacy curtains pose a high risk of cross-contamination because they are frequently touched but infrequently changed. And that they are a breeding ground for MRSA and other dangerous bugs.

Experts encourage hospitals to clean or replace their curtains regularly to mitigate the spread of infection and recently healthcare providers made the switch from reusable fabric to disposable curtains in all areas. This shift has seen a reduction in the spread of infection and is endorsed as an overall cost-saving, considering laundry costs.

Nevertheless, because of the pandemic, a problem has arisen with disposable curtains that is unsustainable and still costly for hospitals and GP surgeries.

And with a fall in bed availability and an increase in patient numbers, there is a need for a cost-effective and sustainable solution for curtains and cubicle tracking systems.

Disposable Curtains

Concerns over infection control has led to the increase of disposable curtain usage, however they are only really effective if changed regularly and in some cases after every patient. So, there is most definitely an initial cost saving, but with an ongoing and potentially increasing cost to replacing these curtains it can be argued that they are not as cost-effective over the long term as reusable options.

Over recent months there has been an increased use of disposable curtains and therefore an increase in hospital waste, and although many manufacturers offer recyclable products most end up in general or clinical waste and this escalates disposal costs.

A disposable curtain could hang for a few months, but as the study referenced above has shown, within weeks the curtains could harbour superbugs and viruses which had been transferred by visitors, staff and even the patients. So, for them to actually be effective at infection control they have to be changed frequently. Which means that reusable curtains could be a better option financially and even hygienically.

Washable Curtains

Reusable and washable curtains provide benefits to a clinical environment as well. They can improve patient comfort, reduce long-term costs, decrease waste and provide a more sustainable option to single-use disposable curtains.

Good quality reusable curtains can last up to 10 years, although some staining cannot be washed out and the ongoing costs associated with washable curtains depend on the policy of the individual facility.

So, the cost of laundering fabric curtains can be greater than the expense of disposable options when taking the overall employee time into consideration.

Information provided by suppliers will give the pros and cons of each type of curtain used in healthcare, but hospitals and GP surgeries have moved towards an overall adoption of disposable curtains from a general consensus that they are the better of the two options. When comparing the life-time cost the most effective product relies on the frequency of washing reusable curtains and the rate of which disposables are replaced.

The uncertain nature of how long each curtain will last due to infection rates, new viruses, handling and staining is difficult to quantify, and with an ongoing pandemic a new solution is imperative at this time.

hospital curtains

The New Alternative to Disposable and Reusable Fabric Curtains

A cubicle curtain that offers a long lifetime to substantially reduce disposal costs and can be cleaned in-situ to eliminate laundering expense would be the ultimate solution, and the Stericurtain is the ideal alternative.

Stericurtain is a reusable, PVC-coated polyester curtain that has anti-microbial properties and a wipe clean surface. Unlike other rigid PVC fabrics, Stericurtain has more flexibility to drape like a conventional curtain and bodily fluid spills can be cleaned immediately using a detergent, unlike other absorbent fabrics.

This alternative is a far more cost effective and sustainable option than disposable or washable fabric curtains, saving hospitals thousands of pounds in waste, facilities and laundry costs. During an infection pandemic, disposable curtains will be changed every patient. You could be benefiting from a 76% reduction in curtain costs by switching to Stericurtain.

Sanitisation as part of a regular bed cleaning routine ensures that the curtain is germ free after every patient. They will not tear or stain and will fit to any existing cubicle track glider hook or roller hook by simply attaching the hooks through the plastic eyelets.

stericurtain close

Available as standard in 3 widths – 7m, 5m, and 3m with a 2m drop or made to measure, they are manufactured on site in the UK for fast order turnaround.

These are the benefits of using Stericurtain:

  • Overall cost saving compared to machine washable and disposable type
  • Saves the time on replacing curtains regularly (in Covid wards they were replaced every 15 minutes in London hospitals during the peak)
  • Save the environment on having to incinerate disposable curtains
  • Saves the laundry cost and time on machine washable ones
  • Saves the problems of relying on long lead times for delivery
  • Can be installed and used for many years and cleaned using standard cleaning procedures and chemicals already used for surfaces in the healthcare sector
  • Flame retardant conforming to BS5867 Part 2 Type C for hospitals and healthcare environments
  • Biosafe® accredited

The Innovative New Normal for Hospital Wards

There will be many advances in technology and processes over the coming months and years in healthcare facilities and hospitals. The dynamic nature of the pandemic has put a strain on the entire health system globally. One small, but crucial change to equip the frontline caregivers can make a major impact on their time and efficiency.

Cubicle curtains may be a minor concern right now, but this is the time to improve the services and the products that were more traditionally utilised. That is where the Barrierscreen comes in. Barrierscreen has all the benefits of Stericurtain as outlined above, but also has a split vision roll-up panel giving the patient a choice of being in full view, partial view or in complete privacy whilst they are recuperating. The two panels are easily rolled up and secured with a plastic popper to reveal a clear-view inner panel.


The clear-view panel allows for complete visibility across the ward giving a visual connection between staff and patients, yet still maintaining that protective barrier.

Manufactured from 4-ply PVC fabric which will not tear or stain and has a lifetime guarantee. Made using quality components and fabric that have been tested for their superior strength and hygiene properties.

Enjoy these benefits by switching to Barrierscreen cubicle curtains:

  • Infection control – Maintains patient privacy but keeps a protective barrier in place so that social distancing between beds can be adhered to
  • Patient privacy – Barrierscreen has a split vision roll-up panel
  • Easy to clean – Using a detergent, Barrierscreen can be wiped down in-situ as part of a routine bed cleaning process when a patient leaves
  • Unobtrusive – Unlike freestanding screens, the curtain doesn’t become an obstacle and will not get in the way of staff and nurses
  • Simple to hang – The vision panel curtain fits to any existing cubicle track glider hooks or roller hooks
  • Significant cost savings – No disposal, facilities and laundry service costs
  • Sustainable – An environmentally preferable choice over single use throw away disposable curtains
  • Available in 14 colours and as standard in 2.1m length by 2m drop or made to measure
  • Anti-bacterial, will not tear or stain and is resistant to mould and mildew
  • Biosafe® accredited and Greenguard certified for low chemical emissions
  • Flame retardant conforming to BS5867 Part 2 Type B

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