1.3.5 Handling Soiled Laundry

Hospitals and Long-Term Care homes use laundry services to launder contaminated cloth and cloth combination items. These items will potentially contain body fluids and body substances—many of which may be contaminated with infection. The laundry service will use a system of soil removal, pathogen removal, and pathogen inactivation to clean the cloths. The steps the laundry services take allow for the items to be used continually with little risk. If you are working in a care environment that uses a laundry service, your activity with soiled laundry prior to the laundry services treatment will prevent further infection transmission at the patient caregiving level of care.

When you suspect the cloth items you are touching have been soiled (note: you should assume that these items are soiled in most cases when you’re dealing with gowns and sheets), you will follow these best practices for linen and laundry handling:

  1. Perform hand hygiene and don gloves to protect your hands. If contamination of your uniform is probable during the task, a gown change may also be needed.
  2. Bring a hamper (with inner bag) into the room. Soiled laundry is never to be placed on the bedside table or the floor; it is to be placed into the rolling hamper and covered immediately. The soiled linens must not come into contact with your uniform.
  3. Remove the linens from a bed by folding the blanket or coverlet down to the bottom of the bed and moving it onto a chair if not soiled, or placing it into the hamper if soiled.
  4. Check the sheets for items and then roll them up. Do not shake the sheets, as this would cause contaminants to scatter to the air.
  5. Move an item to the commode in cases where visible material or soiling is presence (i.e., emesis, stool, body substances). Scrape the biological waste into the commode. Then, rinse the item well in a soiled utility room hopper (extra-large sink with a spraying attachment).
  6. Move the laundry in the covered hamper to the soiled utility room where the soiled laundry bag is secured for pickup by the laundry staff. After the soiled laundry bag is removed from the hamper, the hamper is cleaned and disinfected per employers’ policy prior to being reused. (CDC, 2020b)

When you have completed the task of cleaning and disinfecting the hamper, you will wash your hands.

We’ve come a long way from this hospital laundry in the 1970s. Note the lack of PPE worn by the staff.

Media Attributions

  • University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences from Liverpool, United Kingdom, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons


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