Researchers have called for improved cleaning processes after finding surgical gowns can retain superbugs even after being treated with the recommended amount of disinfectant.
Scientists at the University of Plymouth tested single-use hospital gowns that had been infected with C difficile - bacteria that infect the bowel and cause diarrhoea.
They treated the gowns for ten minutes with disinfectant containing 1,000 parts per million of chlorine, as per Health Department recommendations.
However all C difficile spores remained on the gowns, allowing them to potentially transfer onto other items.
Dr Tina Joshi said hospitals should consider upping the concentration of cleaning product.
“Even when we think an item has been suitably cleaned, it hasn't been necessarily,” she said.
“One thousand parts per million of chlorine just isn't enough as the bacteria survived and grew after disinfection.”
She said medical staff must ensure appropriate hygiene practices are being carried out.
“Gowns should not be worn outside of isolated areas as our work has shown that C difficile spores are good at sticking to clinical surfaces, and can so easily be transferred, causing infections in patients,” he said.
“In an age where infections are becoming resistant to antibiotics, it's worrying to think that other bacteria are becoming resistant to biocides.”
The NHS was warned those most at risk of being affected by C difficile are those who have been taking antibiotics, and those staying in a hospital or care home.