The Textile Services Association (TSA), which represents commercial laundries in the UK, wants to remind the country of the 4,000 laundry workers who are washing the NHS's soiled linen.
The staff mainly work in commercial laundries around the country and are doing a vital job that's both hard and largely unacknowledged, the TSA said.
"I hope that when we all clap for our healthcare workers on Thursdays at 8pm, they will be in people's thoughts too," says David Stevens, chief executive of the TSA.
"The only way to ensure a hygienic product and guarantee decontamination is by using a combination of heat and chemical disinfection, all precisely controlled using the latest technology," adds Stevens. "Staff have to stick to strict procedures. One area we have seen a massive uplift in is demand for scrub suits – over a million have been added to the stocks in just over two weeks across NHS trusts."
Synergy LMS Healthcare is one of the major laundry service providers to the NHS and the company has just brought on stream a new multimillion-pound healthcare laundry facility at Mere Grange in St Helens, Merseyside.
Sue Swales, group customer experience director, said: "We have a high number of healthcare laundry workers on-site and they all wear full personal protective equipment. These individuals are all doing an incredible job in really worrying times. They have gone the extra mile to get our new facility up and running, from a standing start, to a very short, high-pressure timescale.
"Infection control is now more important than ever," added Swales. "There's no doubt that they and the 4,000 laundry workers servicing the NHS deserve a big shout-out."
The TSA is working with the government to investigate how the laundry industry might help solve the PPE shortage by switching to re-usable products that can be laundered.
"We have 24,000 laundry workers who have been furloughed," said Stevens. "Their laundries serviced the hospitality and sports industries. We can repurpose these commercial laundries to help the NHS get through the crisis."