Clean and sterile linens, changed frequently, can create the baseline of infection control at any major health care facility, but creating a proper linen care policy does not happen by accident. A hospital administrator needs to establish and enforce strict policies for storing bedding and other cloth in the hospital, whether soiled or clean.
Staff members tasked with the removal of soiled linens should be trained in the proper removal and handling of dirty sheets, towels and washcloths. While at home it may be no big deal to shake sheets out to find wayward socks, hospital staff need to be reminded that virtually every patient is a potential source of infection. Staff members should wear gloves whenever handling soiled bedding, and it should be folded toward the middle so that any contaminants in the sheets remain there.
Once the soiled bedding is collected, it should be placed in clearly marked carts or in bags which can then be closed, preventing infectious material and odors from the linens from permeating the area.
Soiled linens should then be pretreated with stain remover as necessary and placed in a loosely loaded washing machine. Stuffing as many sheets as possible into the washer is a good way to prevent cleanliness. They should be washed in hot water and detergent for a minimum of 10 minutes at 105 degrees Fahrenheit before being dried in dryers that reach a minimum of 160 degrees.
Clean linens should be handled by staff members also wearing gloves to prevent them from transferring contaminants. Clean linens should be folded in an area separate from the handling area for soiled linens. Once folded, the bedding must be placed in clean laundry bags or on covered laundry carts for transporting to proper storage areas.
Unlike a home linen closet which typically gets cleaned during spring and fall cleaning or when things start tumbling down, hospital linen storage areas should be sanitized and sterilized often, preferably at least once a week. Clean linens should be kept in orderly stacks in the linen storage facility and removed only as needed. For transport between the linen storage area and the site where they are needed, clean linens should be kept on a linen cart which is sterilized daily. The cart should be kept covered.
The recommendations for hospital linen storage help prevent the spread of infectious disease and can easily be met by a professional linen service. A professional linen service can be contracted to maintain the cleanliness of the hospital’s linen storage area as well as providing clean and sanitized linens. Professional linen services can provide proper storage and delivery of hospital linens as well as inventory and linen maintenance.