Linen includes bed linen, pillowcases, towels, curtains and personal clothing.
Used linen harbours large numbers of microorganisms (germs/bugs).

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 which is known, or expected to be, infectious, and linen that is stained with blood or body fluids, e.g. faeces.

Used or infectious linen may also be categorised as heat-labile:

  • Heat-labile – Linen, usually personal clothing, where a label states a lower recommended washing temperature.


Microorganisms (germs/bugs) are destroyed by heat and detergent and by the dilution effect of the water, preferably in the washing machine.

  • Use as hot a programme that the linen allows.
  • Further organisms (germs/bugs) are killed by tumble drying and ironing.

You should remove the apron and gloves you have worn when handling the clean linen.


For Staff Uniforms:

  • Follow local policy for the laundry of staff uniforms or staff uniforms stained with blood or body fluids.



  • Do not mix clean and used linen.
  • Do not shake, steep or rinse used/infectious linen.
  • Wear PPE for handling linen that is used/ infectious.
  • Perform hand hygiene after all handling of used linen.


If you would like to know more information about laundering linen in a person’s home please see NHS guidance.

Clean linen

  • Clean linen should be stored in a clean, designated area.
  • Clean linen stored on a trolley must be completely covered with a waterproof covering.
  • Clean linen deemed unfit for re-use, e.g. torn, should be returned to laundry for disposal or disposed of locally.

Used linen (previously known as soiled linen)

  • Put on disposable gloves and apron prior to handling used linen.
  • Ensure a laundry receptacle is available as close to the point of use (if available in your care environment).
  • Roll or fold into a bundle and place into the correct laundry bag for linen that is used.
  • In a person’s own home, you may place the linen in a laundry basket or directly into the washing machine, but you should discuss this with the householder.
  • Perform hand hygiene on removal of personal protective equipment (PPE).


Do not:

  • shake, sort or rinse linen following removal from bed
  • place used linen on floor or other surfaces
  • re-handle linen once bagged
  • overfill laundry receptacle.

Infectious linen (mainly applies to healthcare linen)

Infectious linen has been used by the patient/person who is known or suspected of being infectious and/ or the linen is contaminated with blood or other body fluids.

If the used linen is contaminated with urine, faeces or vomit, put on disposable gloves and apron and using paper towels/kitchen roll remove any solid matter and dispose of either in the toilet or inside a leak-proof bag and placed in the correct waste bin.

Infectious linen should be placed directly into a water soluble laundry bag and secured before placing into a clear plastic bag then placed into a laundry receptacle. Water-soluble laundry bags should only be used if linen is to be laundered in an industrial washing machine and not a domestic type machine.

Colour coding of outer linen bags

Linen bags are colour coded to denote the various categories of linen, e.g., used linen or infectious linen. For further information, refer to your local policy.

NOTE: Water soluble laundry bags should be used for linen assessed as being infectious, i.e., soiled with blood or body fluids which can be put directly into a washing machine. It is important that these bags are used as directed by the manufacturers.