Safe management of linen

Clean linen

  • Should be stored in a clean, designated area, preferably an enclosed cupboard.
  • If clean linen is not stored in a cupboard, then the trolley used for storage must be designated for this purpose and completely covered with an impervious covering/or door that is able to withstand
  • Do not:
    • Rinse, shake or sort linen on removal from beds/trolleys
    • place used linen on the floor or any other surfaces eg a locker/table top
    • re-handle used linen once bagged
    • overfill laundry receptacles (not more than 2/3 full); or
    • place inappropriate items in the laundry receptacle eg used equipment/needles.

Healthcare laundry must be managed and segregated in accordance with HTM 01- 04 which categorises laundry as follows:

Used linen (previously known as soiled/fouled linen)

  • Ensure a laundry receptacle is available as close as possible to the point of use for immediate linen deposit.
  • Should be placed in an impermeable bag immediately on removal from the bed or before leaving a clinical

Infectious linen (this mainly applies to healthcare linen)

Infectious linen includes linen that has been used by a patient who is known or suspected to be infectious and/or linen that is contaminated with blood and/or other body fluids, eg faeces:

  • Linen in this category must not be sorted but should be sealed in a water- soluble bag (entirely water soluble ‘alginate’ bag or impermeable bag with soluble seams), which is then placed in an impermeable bag immediately on removal from the bed and secured before leaving a clinical
  • Infectious linen bags/receptacles must be tagged (eg hospital ward/care area) and
  • Store all used/infectious linen in a designated, safe, lockable area while awaiting uplift. Uplift schedules must be acceptable to the care area and there should be no build-up of linen
  • All linen that is deemed unfit for re-use, eg torn or heavily contaminated, should be categorised at the point of use and returned to the laundry for disposal.

Linen used during patient transfer, eg blankets, should be categorised at the point of destination.

Further information can be found in the safe management of linen literature review. For how to manage linen at care area level see Appendix 8.

Manual contents

Chapter 1: Standard infection control precautions (SICPs)

Chapter 2: Transmission based precautions (TBPs)


Download a PDF copy of the National infection prevention and control manual for England