7. Safe management of linen

Examples of linen you may have in the care home includes:

There are three categories of linen:

Clean – Linen washed and ready for use

Used – All used linen in the care setting not contaminated by blood or body fluids

Infectious – All linen used by a person known or suspected to be infectious and/or linen that is contaminated with blood or body fluids, e.g. faeces.

Used or infectious linen may also be categorised as heat-labile: usually personal clothing where the clothing may be damaged (shrinking/stretching) by washing at a higher than recommended temperature than the label advises. If such linen needs to be washed at a higher temperature for example if soiled or resident has a known infection they or their relatives need to be advised that the clothing may be damaged.

All clean, used and infectious linen should be handled with care and attention paid to the potential spread of infection.

Clean linen:

Should be stored in a clean, allocated area.

This should be an enclosed cupboard but a trolley could be used as long as it is completely covered with a waterproof covering that is able to withstand cleaning.

Used linen:

Staff must: 

put on disposable gloves and apron prior to handling used linen;

make sure that a laundry trolley or container is available as close as possible to the point of use for immediate linen deposit.

Staff must not:

rinse, shake or sort linen on removal from beds or trolleys;

place used linen on the floor or any other surfaces for example on a locker or table top;

re-handle used linen once bagged;

overfill laundry receptacles or trolleys;

place inappropriate items in the laundry receptacle for example used equipment/needles.

Infectious linen:

Staff must:

wear disposable gloves and apron before handling infectious linen;

put infectious linen directly into a water soluble laundry bag and secure before putting into a clear plastic bag and placing into a laundry receptacle/trolley.

Washing linen

Photo of a washing machine containing clothingMicro-organisms are destroyed by heat and detergent and also by the dilution effect of the water in the washing machine.

wash items using the highest temperature you can and following the washing instructions.

use your normal washing powder or detergent and follow the instructions on the correct amount to use.

tumble-dry (if possible) following the washing instructions.

iron according to washing instructions. If possible, use a hot steam iron.

If visitors wish to take their relatives clothes home to be laundered, place laundry in an appropriate bag and provide them with a washing clothes at home leaflet.

If the residents clothing is very soiled or infectious, staff may recommend that the clothing is washed in the care home’s laundry service if available, otherwise, the item should be disposed of in the appropriate healthcare waste stream following discussion with the resident or their relative(s).


Read the safe management of linen literature review to find out more about why we do things this way when dealing with linen.