- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - When the work day’s done in Tupelo, her family’s laundry isn’t the first thing on Judy Murphy’s mind.

“Uh, no,” she said.

That’s not a surprise. Dealing with piles of dirty laundry probably isn’t anybody’s idea of a good time.

Murphy is North Mississippi Medical Center’s director of laundry and linen services. Her 26-person staff is responsible for handling some 30,000 pounds of laundry a day.

“People are depending on the work we do,” she said. “It’s not like you can go home at the end of the day and not be done.”

The numbers involved are mind-boggling. The hospital laundry has 165 to 170 different types of items, and serves more than 145 customers. The result is more than 6 million pounds of dirty things turned into clean things over the course of a year.

The hospital laundry uses its own version of a color-safe bleach.

“It’s hydrogen peroxide. In the domestic market, it’s a 0.05 or 0.10 percent concentration,” Murphy said. “We use 30 percent. We were 33 percent but we had to go to 30 percent because of government regulations. It is literally bomb-making material.”

Why such a powerful chemical?

The answer starts with the laundry’s customer base. The biggest customer by far is North Mississippi Medical Center, but the laundry also provides clean linens, scrubs and other items to hospitals and clinics throughout Northeast Mississippi.

“My goal is to make sure what gets on the patient’s bed is what they call hygienically clean,” Murphy said. “It’s clean, period.”

And this laundry starts out more than dirty. Again, remember the customer base.

“We have to treat everything like it’s potentially infectious,” Murphy said, “because we don’t know what’s in the bags when they arrive.”

A team - dressed in safety gear, including masks, thick gloves and shoe covers - sorts soiled scrubs from sheets, under-pads from baby gowns, napkins from mops.

“You have to separate it. You don’t want to use the harsh chemicals on the baby linens. They have very sensitive skins,” Murphy said. “You don’t want to use the baby formula on under-pads. They won’t get clean.”

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