Clinical Management

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Waste & laundry

Introduction / overview

Large volumes of waste may be generated by frequent use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Dispose of all waste as infectious clinical waste


No special procedures are required; linen is categorised as ‘used’ or ‘infectious’.

All linen used in the direct care of patients with possible and confirmed COVID-19 should be managed as ‘infectious’ linen. Linen must be handled, transported and processed in a manner that prevents exposure to the skin and mucous membranes of staff, contamination of their clothing and the environment. This means that:

  • Disposable gloves and an apron should be worn when handling infectious linen
  • All linen should be handled inside the patient room/cohort area; a laundry receptacle should be available as close as possible to the point of use for immediate linen deposit

When handling linen:

  • Do not rinse, shake or sort linen on removal from beds/trolleys
  • Do not place used/infectious linen on the floor or any other surfaces such as a locker/table top
  • Do not re-handle used/infectious linen once bagged
  • Do not overfill laundry receptacles
  • Do not place inappropriate items, such as used equipment/needles, in the laundry receptacle

When managing infectious linen:

  • Place directly into a water-soluble/alginate bag and secure
  • Place the water-soluble bag inside a clear polythene bag and secure
  • Place the polythene bag into in the appropriately coloured (as per local policy) linen bag (hamper)

All linen bags/receptacles must be tagged with ward/care area and date. Store all used/infectious linen in a designated, safe, lockable area whilst awaiting uplift.

Staff uniforms

The appropriate use of PPE will protect staff uniforms from contamination in most circumstances. Healthcare facilities should provide changing rooms/areas where staff can change into uniforms on arrival at work.

Organisations may consider the use of theatre scrubs for staff who do not usually wear a uniform but who are likely to come into close contact with patients (for example, medical staff).

Healthcare laundry services should be used to launder staff uniforms if there is capacity to do so. If there is no laundry facility available then uniforms should be transported home in a disposable plastic bag or a reusable cloth bag that can be laundered. Hand hygiene should be performed after removing a uniform and placing it into a bag for transport. Plastic bags should be disposed of into the household waste stream. Cloth bags should be laundered with the uniform.

Uniforms should be laundered:

  • Separately from other household linen
  • In a load of no more than half the machine capacity
  • At the maximum temperature the fabric can tolerate, then ironed or tumble-dried

Note: It is best practice to change into and out of uniforms at work and not wear them when travelling. This is based on public perception rather than evidence of an infection risk. This does not apply to community health workers who are required to travel between patients in the same uniform.

Sources & links

  • Public Health England | Reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the hospital setting | Link
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