Center for Improvement in Healthcare Quality Newsletter
September 2021

CIHQ-ARS Article

Healthcare Laundry

By: Paula Brinn
Health care facilities launders approximately 5 billion pounds of laundry annually in the U. S. That’s a lot of laundry. The management of laundry services should be evidence-based by utilizing information from organizations such as Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM) and or local/state authority. Laundry includes bedding, towels, personal clothing, patient apparel, uniforms, scrub suits, gowns, and drapes. While laundry can be a source of multiple microorganisms, there are very few healthcare associated diseases linked to contaminated laundry.
A risk assessment of the process might help to guide the development of organizational expectations and identify any risk. Implementation of standard precautions has shown to reduce the risk of disease transmission, especially when handling soiled linen.
CDC’s Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities (2003) states "Clean linen should be transported and stored by methods that will ensure its cleanliness."
NAILM states "Carts that are going to be used to store linens in patient-care areas (hallways) must have covers on them during transportation and storage time. The covers shall protect the linens at all times during storage. They cannot be removed or adjusted in a manner that will expose linens to common traffic. Open carts that are going to be used just to dispense linens on patient- care areas need not be covered for this purpose. They cannot be used to store linens on the floors."
The CDC has best practices for the management of clean linen. They are:
  • Sort, package, transport, and store clean linens in a manner that prevents risk of contamination by dust, debris, soiled linens, or other soiled items
  • Each floor/ward should have a designated room for sorting and storing clean linens
  • Transport clean linens to patient care areas on designated carts or within designated containers that are regularly (at least daily) cleaned with a neutral detergent and warm water solution
For soiled linen the CDC recommends the following:
  • Not shaking soiled linens
  • Healthcare facilities that require scrubs should launder staffs’ scrubs or educate employees on infection control and cleaning guidelines if laundry is done at home
  • For linen that is soiled, OSHA prohibits the sorting or rinsing in the same location where the contamination occurred
The recommendations listed above are not all inclusive of the guidelines published by the CDC. Please refer to the CDC for more detailed information.


Compliance with the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030. | Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.).
Laundry | Background | Environmental Guidelines | Guidelines Library | Infection Control | CDC. (2019, April 2).
National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM) | Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved August 19, 2021, from