Laundry Infection Control in Aged Care


Published: 12 September 2019

Correct laundry procedures are vital to care and infection control in aged care facilities.

Ensuring that your facility meets and upholds laundry hygiene standards is crucial for the health of residents, staff and visitors. Proper handling of laundry also lets the families of residents know that their loved one is being well looked after (Dependable Laundry Solutions n.d.).

What Classifies as Laundry

Laundry in an aged care setting may include:

  • Bed sheets and blankets;
  • Towels;
  • Residents’ personal clothing; and
  • Uniforms;

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2003)

As highlighted by The Conversation, the state and condition of a resident’s clothing speaks volumes of the atmosphere of care that exists (or doesn’t) in an aged care facility. Clothes are a way to convey a resident’s individuality, in a period of their life when it might otherwise be under-threat (Armstrong 2018).

Laundry and linen can carry traces of influenza, gastroenteritis or other harmful viruses. As we age, our immune systems weaken, and with many living with pre-existing illnesses, residential care residents are particularly vulnerable to infection. (Dependable Laundry Solutions n.d.). This is why care into the washing and storing of laundry is so important.

Your facility will have its own policies on the proper handling of linen and laundry, familiarise yourself with those and use this article as a supplement or refresher. Infection control: laundry, relates to Aged Care Quality Standards: Standard 1 - Consumer Dignity and Choice, Standard 3 - Personal Care and Clinical Care; and Standard 5 - Organisation’s Service Environment.

man working in aged care facility or hospital cleaning laundry with industrial machine
Laundry and linen can carry traces of influenza, gastroenteritis or other harmful viruses.

What is the Risk?

Sources where living and non-living microorganisms exist and thrive (including pathogens) are referred to as reservoirs (Murphy 2019).

In aged care facilities, reservoirs include but aren’t limited to:

  • Unclean surfaces and equipment;
  • Soiled textiles and linen; and
  • Discarded single-use equipment.

(Murphy 2019)

Contaminated textiles and fabrics usually contain high numbers of microorganisms from body substances. These include blood, skin, stool, urine, vomitus, and other body tissues and fluids (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2003).

Simple Steps to Meet Laundry Standards

The Laundry Process

The antimicrobial action of the laundering process is the outcome of a combination of mechanical, thermal, and chemical factors. Laundry items used in healthcare settings are disinfected during laundering and are generally free of pathogens, but are not sterile (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2003).

Laundering cycles consist of:

  • Flush;
  • Main wash;
  • Bleaching;
  • Rinsing and;
  • Souring.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2003)

Cleaned linens are then:

  • Dried;
  • Pressed;
  • Folded;
  • Packaged.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2003)

Safety Guidelines

Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should always be worn during the handling of any soiled linen.

  1. Avoid shaking linen at the risk of spreading harmful microorganisms.
  2. Linen from the bed of one patient should never be placed on the bed of another, even momentarily.
  3. Bag all used linen, place it into an appropriate laundry receptacle.
  4. Place all soiled linen into a leak-proof bag.
  5. Keep soiled linen away from your clothes/uniform.
  6. Perform proper and thorough hand hygiene after handling used linen.
  7. Store linen in a clean, dry area–separate from used linen.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2003; Dependable Laundry Solutions n.d.; Infection Control Today 2005)

Why do aged care facilities present particular hazards to the cleaning and maintaining of laundry?

Patients in a weakened or bed-bound state will have been lying on sheets for prolonged periods. Their sheets, therefore, will be dark, damp and warm, perfect conditions to breed bacteria and encourage viruses (Infection Control Today 2005). Due to any number of reasons, an aged care resident may have soiled their clothes, and these require more intensive washing procedures.

In Australia and New Zealand, there are official regulations in place detailing the proper handling of linen and laundry. While there may be some variations, a facility’s laundry policies must line up with AS/NZS 4146 Regulations (Dependable Laundry Solutions n.d.).

Always abide by the Standard Precautions (routine measures) of infection control, including:

  • Hand hygiene;
  • Wearing PPE;
  • Safe handling and transportation, use and disposal of sharps;
  • Routine environmental cleaning;
  • Cleaning and reprocessing of reusable medical equipment and instruments according to their intended use;
  • Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette;
  • Aseptic non-touch technique (ANTT);
  • Appropriate handling, transportation and disposal of waste; and
  • Appropriate handling, transportation and laundering of linen.

(Murphy 2019)

proper hand washing process for infection control
Hand hygiene is part of the Standard Precautions (routine measures) of infection control.

Additional Resources


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Ausmed’s Editorial team is committed to providing high-quality and thoroughly researched content to our readers, free of any commercial bias or conflict of interest. All articles are developed in consultation with healthcare professionals and peer reviewed where necessary, undergoing a yearly review to ensure all healthcare information is kept up to date. See Educator Profile