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Linen management for healthcare facilities and linen management services

This fact sheet provides recommendations for the management of linen from healthcare facilities for people suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 infection.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus. Symptoms range from a mild cough to pneumonia. Some people recover easily, others may get very sick very quickly. There is evidence that it spreads from person to person. Good hygiene can prevent infection.

Transmission of COVID-19

COVID-19 is spread from person to person most likely through:

  • close contact with an infectious person
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
  • touching common objects or surfaces (like door knobs or tables) contaminated by cough or  sneeze droplets from a person with COVID-19 infection, and then touching your mouth or face.

To prevent transmission of COVID-19 while handling linen, general good hygiene measures and consistent use of appropriate personal protective equipment is recommended.

General principles

The risk of disease transmission is very low if basic hygiene and common-sense storage and handling of soiled and cleaned linen is practised. Good laundry practice requires that work procedures and guidelines for precautions are followed when handling all soiled linen regardless of source:

  • All onsite and offsite facilities that process or launder linens for healthcare must have documented operating policies consistent with AS/NZS 4146.
  • All used linen should be handled with care to avoid dispersal of microorganisms into the environment and to avoid contact with staff clothing.
  • All linen used for a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 infection should be managed as for heavily soiled linen.

Healthcare facility management of linen

At the point of generation, linen used for a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 infection should be placed in an alginate bag and then into an appropriate laundry receptacle.

A long-sleeved fluid-resistant gown and disposable gloves should be worn during handling of soiled linen to prevent skin and mucous membrane exposure to blood and body substances. The long-sleeved gown and disposable gloves should be removed and hand hygiene performed following the handling of used linen.

Used hospital linen must not be rinsed or sorted in patient-care areas or washed in domestic washing machines.

Transport of linen

Routine established processes for the transport of linen should be used.

Laundry management of linen

Routine processes for laundry management of linen apply. There are no additional controls required for laundry management for linen used for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection. Laundry workers should wear the personal protective equipment that is normally used as appropriate to the task being undertaken. For example, laundry workers at the sorting station should normally wear personal protective equipment such as gowns and gloves.

Patient items

Domestic-type washing machines must only be used for a patient’s personal items such as clothing (not hospital linens). Washing must involve the use of an appropriate detergent and hot water. Only loads of one individual patient’s items should be washed at one time. Clothes dryers should be used for drying.

Further information