The Role of Health Care Laundry in Infection Prevention


The hospital is a busy place, filled with myriad units and sophisticated conditions. Stopping hospital-associated infections feels prefer it requires an encyclopedic data of each new and sophisticated well being care intervention. Potential sources of transmission within the hospital embody a outstanding array of specialised dangers, however there are mundane, on a regular basis dangers like well being care laundry too.

Which textiles are reused and laundered varies from well being care facility to well being care facility. Typical well being care linens embody affected person and workers bedding, towels, clothes (scrubs, coats, uniforms, affected person pajamas, and robes), surgical drapes, curtains, and reusable mop heads. Hospital linens can harbor a big density of pathogenic organisms, from 106 to 108 colony-forming items/100 cm2. These mostly remoted embody gram-negative organisms (Enterobacterales, Pseudomonadaceae) in addition to Staphylococcus species.1

Regardless of this noteworthy pathogenic burden, the importance of linens in well being care transmission is unclear. When an an infection happens, it might not be potential to determine the precise environmental supply of transmission as a result of a number of potential environmental reservoirs exist in parallel. Though well being care linens usually are not typically implicated, it makes intuitive sense that they’re a possible reservoir for transmissible organisms.

Staff who deal with laundry are at elevated danger of transmission, together with gastrointestinal pathogens.2-5 Definitive associations between linen contamination and affected person infections are more durable to parse. However, there’s a want for meticulous consideration to sustaining linen cleanliness.

It might be easiest to separate hospital linen–related dangers into 3 distinct sections: 1) removing; 2) cleansing; and three) storage.


Guarantee linens are eliminated, saved (if mandatory), and transported safely to the cleansing facility. Dirty linen poses a hazard to well being care workers and probably to sufferers. All used linen needs to be thought-about probably infectious. Linen shouldn’t be shaken or disturbed in a method that would aerosolize infectious particles. Private protecting tools that may be worn across the affected person also needs to be worn when eradicating and packaging dirty linen for transport. If there may be gross contamination with out transmission-based precautions, commonplace precautions will necessitate using extra private protecting tools.6 Some infections, together with orthopoxviruses, are transmitted by contaminated linen.7 Linen needs to be contained earlier than removing from a affected person’s room, taking care to not disturb or aerosolize any infectious particles. Word needs to be made that the outside of bagged linens might turn out to be contaminated, even with double bagging.8 In lots of well being care settings, dirty linen have to be gathered and transported to an off-site location.


Satisfactory cleansing and disinfection is important. The 2003 Pointers for Environmental An infection Management in Well being-Care Amenities from the CDC and the Healthcare An infection Management Practices Advisory Committee offers detailed requirements for well being care laundering, together with reaching minimal temperatures and disinfection concentrations that guarantee pathogens shall be inactivated.6 Most often, processing in response to these requirements needs to be efficient, even with Monkeypox virus.9 Just a few organisms might resist disinfection within the laundry. A research trying on the relative thermotolerance of enterococci confirmed that they have been inactivated in the course of the washing cycle, regardless of tolerance to the excessive temperatures alone.10 Clostridioides difficile spores inoculated into cotton sheets and run via a simulated hospital linen washing cycle have been famous to stay viable after cleansing.11 An apparent potential pitfall throughout cleansing is failure to realize meant time, temperature, or disinfectant focus minimums. Excursions could also be troublesome to detect if laundry is managed off web site or by a contractor. A busy an infection prevention service might not have the bandwidth to survey off-site or contracted linen companies greater than a few times a 12 months. Belief and communication with these answerable for linen processing are essential to making sure immediate notification and determination if a difficulty is found.

Clear, processed linen ought to make it to the affected person’s bedside clear. The quintessential an infection prevention commonplace—separation of unpolluted and soiled—have to be baked into the administration of unpolluted linen. A unidirectional movement on the laundry processing facility will assist forestall pathogens from dirty linen coming into contact with the clear linen, even not directly from the arms or clothes of employees. Laundry surfaces needs to be routinely disinfected, and hand hygiene needs to be monitored for compliance.12 Laundering requires each warmth and water—stipulations for the expansion of pathogenic mildew. Well being care outbreaks of mucormycosis have been linked to linens.13,14 In a weak affected person inhabitants, mildew publicity is related to extreme or life-threatening infections. If linen have to be transported from an off-site facility, it needs to be coated throughout transport to stop contamination. Linens nonetheless heat from processing needs to be allowed to succeed in ambient temperature earlier than overlaying, lest condensation and lowered airflow promote mildew progress. As soon as linen arrives within the hospital, it needs to be unloaded promptly and saved in a fashion that forestalls contamination.


Inside the clear linen provide, contamination might happen from arms of well being care employees accessing clear linens with out first performing hand hygiene. Clear storage rooms needs to be protected and monitored for excursions of temperature, humidity, and injury related to floods. Costorage with dirty objects or units like fridges that embody followers, condensation, or generate warmth also needs to be prevented. Stop contamination by making certain covers or cupboards are saved closed. Strategies of storing and utilizing linens might differ. The astute an infection preventionist might have to make use of shoe-leather epidemiology to determine how linens make it “the ultimate mile” if there’s a concern for potential transmission.

If there’s a delay from when a mattress is made to when a affected person occupies the room, how lengthy earlier than linens would get replaced? Is there a mechanism to determine if a mattress is used surreptitiously? This might not be a priority for busy services with excessive occupancy, fast turnover, and ample name room area, however with the change in elective procedures in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, there might have been adjustments to affected person and worker movement. A course of to make sure linens are freshly made instantly earlier than affected person arrival would scale back the danger of contamination.

There are various methods for pathogens to hitch a experience within the hospital setting. Linen is just one of many potential fomites that may very well be implicated in environmental transmission of hospital pathogens. Guaranteeing dirty linen is appropriately contained, transported, cleaned, and saved is important to stopping transmission from this easy-to-overlook facet of the well being care setting.


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2. Ellsbury E, Owosekun O, Mackey Ok, Ten Eyck D, Mahoney LE. Outbreak of viral hepatitis within the workers of a pediatric ward — California. MMWR. 1977;26(10):77.

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5. Fijan S, Steyer A, Poljsak-Prijatelj M, Cencic A, Ostar-Turk S, Koren S. Rotaviral RNA discovered on numerous surfaces in a hospital laundry. J Virol Strategies. 2008;148(1-2):66-73. doi:10.1016/j.jviromet.2007.10.011

6. US Division of Well being and Human Providers, Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. Pointers for Environmental An infection Management in Well being-Care Amenities. Suggestions of CDC and the Well being Care An infection Management Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) 2003. Revealed 2003. Up to date July 2019. Accessed June 27, 2022.

7. Pauli G, Blümel J, Burger R, et al. Orthopox viruses: infections in people. Transfus Med Hemother. 2010;37(6):351-364. doi:10.1159/000322101

8. Maki DG, Alvarado C, Hassemer C. Double-bagging of things from isolation rooms is pointless as an an infection management measure – a comparative-study of floor contamination with single-bagging and double-bagging. Infect Management. 1986;7(11):535-537. doi:10.1017/s0195941700065279

9. An infection prevention and management of monkeypox in well being care settings. CDC. Up to date Might 22, 2022. Accessed June 29, 2022. care.html

10. Orr KE, Holliday MG, Jones AL, Robson I, Perry JD. Survival of enterococci throughout hospital laundry processing. J Hosp Infect. 2002;50(2):133-139. doi:10.1053/jhin.2001.1137

11. Tarrant J, Jenkins RO, Laird KT. From ward to washer: the survival of Clostridium difficile spores on hospital mattress sheets via a business UK NHS well being care laundry course of. Infect Management Hosp Epidemiol. 2018;39(12):1406-1411. doi:10.1017/ice.2018.255

12. Fijan S, Sostar-Turk S, Cencic A. Implementing hygiene monitoring techniques in hospital laundries as a way to scale back microbial contamination of hospital textiles. J Hosp Infect. 2005;61(1):30-38. doi:10.1016/j.jhin.2005.02.005

13. Cheng VCC, Chen JHK, Wong SCY, et al. Hospital outbreak of pulmonary and cutaneous zygomycosis as a consequence of contaminated linen objects from substandard laundry. Clin Infect Dis. 2016;62(6):714-721. doi:10.1093/cid/civ1006

14. Sundermann AJ, Clancy CJ, Pasculle AW, et al. Remediation of mucorales-contaminated well being care linens at a laundry facility following an investigation of a case cluster of hospital-acquired mucormycosis. Clin Infect Dis. 2022;74(8):1401-1407. doi:10.1093/cid/ciab638


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