Infection Control Series: Understanding the national colour-code scheme

Reducing cross-contamination will significantly help your chances of preventing a virus from spreading like wildfire in a care home. 

When people are often in close proximity with each other and touching the same surfaces, it’s so important to minimise the number of things they come into contact with. One of those things is cleaning supplies. 

The national colour-code system, prevalent before COVID-19, is an incredibly effective way of containing viruses by preventing cleaning supplies from inadvertently spreading viruses in areas like care homes. 

If someone in a high-risk area, such as the sluice room uses a cloth, and then the same cloth is used in a different bathroom, it can spread E Coli or the coronavirus easily. Hence why it’s so important not to cross-contaminate another area of the care home after cleaning this room.

The colour code system can help you to: 

  • Isolate particular medical and industrial products
  • Designate particular areas of your care facility, based on risk.

Using colour avoids confusion, and simplifies the system to make it more understandable and clear-cut for everyone. 

By placing colour codes on reusable cleaning tools such as cloths and mops, it significantly reduces the chance of the tool being used twice in different parts of the care home. 

A resident’s bedroom, for example, should not necessarily be a high-risk area, and this colour code system avoids that from happening. 

A Universal UK Code of Conduct

The use of colour-coded schemes is credited by the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICS) as developing the practice for the cleaning industry in the late 90s. And as a result, the National Patient Safety Agency has recommended that all National Health Service (NHS) organisations follow the code as standard. Can you really afford not to be following it? 

Colour code suggestions:

Right now, it is not currently mandatory to follow the same colours that the BICS recommends. Many hospitals or care homes use different core colours for different things. 

Although, to make it easier to understand and to follow, there’s no harm in sticking to the same colours. This also helps to prevent mistakes with cleaning, in the event of a contracted worker coming from other care homes with different colour-coded systems. 

Blueleaf recommends following the below rules:

Red: Bathrooms, washroom areas, areas with en-suites and shared bathrooms.
Blue: General lower risk areas, including lounges, corridors, bedrooms, and offices.
Green: General food and bar areas, including kitchens and food storage areas.
Yellow: Clinical and isolation areas, including sluice rooms and laundry rooms.

What products should I colour code?

All items, materials and equipment which you use more than once to clean something on a surface. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Cloths
  • Mops
  • Buckets
  • Aprons
  • Gloves

What about cleaning products?

According to the NHS Colour Coding Leaflet, you do not need to colour code disinfectants and detergents, as the cleaning supply is only being used once. Similarly, paper towels do not need to be colour coded as long as they’re strictly only used once. 

Your partner in colour coded products

Try and make sure the colours on each product are as visible as possible – don’t hide a yellow sticker on a bucket which might not be seen. If possible, order your cleaning supplies in these colours – we sell buckets, gloves and mops in each of the core colour codes, for example. And if you’d prefer disposable, we’ve also got you covered.

Get in touch today to find out more about how we can help your care home residents and employees right now. 

Read more from our Infection Control Series

Part 1: Using the correct cleaning chemicals

Part 3: How to implement isolation measures and protect residents against loneliness 

Part 4: The complete guide to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Part 5: How to handle waste management and laundry segregation

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