Your Guide to Effective Laundry Practice – COVID-19

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Your Guide to Effective Laundry Practice

Local and international governments and health departments have been conscientiously sharing best practice prevention measures to help stop the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

As a result, we have been escalating good hygiene practices with hand washing to more regular/ thorough cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, high touch points & devices. Through to implementing social distancing measures of 1.5m.

But what about washing our clothes, or sheets, or towels?  If the virus can exist on high touch surfaces and hard surfaces – what about the clothing we wear each day.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the coronavirus is most frequently transmitted through respiratory droplets (from an infected person sneezing or coughing) rather than through surfaces, objects and materials that when contaminated can transfer disease.

However, the CDC mentions that there is evidence to suggest the novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials, which includes clothing. This applies to all other type of potential contaminants; viruses, bacteria or otherwise.

We recognise the current situation with COVID-19 is rapidly evolving – please continue to seek guidance from local governments and health departments.

General Guidelines

At this time, its important to understand and seek guidance from the Australian Standards. AS/NZS 4146:2000 – “Laundry Practice” sets out the requirements for cleaned linen. This standard specifies general laundry practice requirements and recommendations for commercial, industrial, hospital, institutional, on-premise and coin-operated laundries.

Linen Workflow

The Linen Workflow outlines the steps to effectively process linen throughout a typical operation,  we need to be following best practice across each step of the Linen Workflow. We need to consider all of procedures both outside the laundry (Distribute, Use, Collect, Transport) and inside the laundry (Sort, Wash, Dry, Finish) that need to be considered. At each step there are some specific measures and procedures that need to be adhered to, inline with your existing laundry procedures.

Wash – Disinfection

To achieve compliance to standards AS/NZS 4146 all soiled linen shall be disinfected. This will be either Thermal or Chemical Disinfection. Your chemical provider can specifically design the wash programs based on your requirements. See clause 3.5.2 Thermal Disinfection & clause 3.5.3. Chemical Disinfection of AS/NZS 4146:2000 Australian & New Zealand Standard. It should also be noted that additional laundry processes (drying & ironing) further reduce viruses and bacteria.

Wash – Formulas / Standard Programming

Detailed within the Australian Standard is a series of suggested wash formulas. These wash formulas are given for guidance only and it is likely that your Chemical Provider is already adhering to exact or similar steps in creating wash formulas specifically for your business.

A guide to the wash formulae for cotton and polyester/cotton textiles is given in Table A3 (AS/NZS 4146:2000 – Laundry Practice).

A guide to the wash formulae for cotton sheets and towels is given in Table A4 (AS/NZS 4146:2000 – Laundry Practice).




In reference to COVID-19 measures, we have collated some advice from our Health Departments and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the detail and links have been shared below.

General Principles (On Premise Laundry)

The risk of disease transmission is very low if basic hygiene and common-sense storage and handling of soiled and cleaned linen is practiced. Good laundry practice requires that work procedures and guidelines for precautions are followed when handling all soiled linen regardless of source:

  • All onsite and offsite facilities that process or launder linens for healthcare must have documented operating policies consistent with AS/NZS 4146.
  • All used linen should be handled with care to avoid dispersal of microorganisms into the environment and to avoid contact with staff clothing.
  • All linen used for a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 infection should be managed as for heavily soiled linen.

As outlined in the QLD Health Linen Management – Fact Sheet.

General Principles (On Premise Laundry – COVID-19 Suspected or Confirmed Case)

  • At the point of generation, linen used for a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 infection should be placed in an alginate bag and then into an appropriate laundry receptacle.
  • A long-sleeved fluid-resistant gown and disposable gloves should be worn during handling of soiled linen to prevent skin and mucous membrane exposure to blood and body substances. The long-sleeved gown and disposable gloves should be removed and hand hygiene performed following the handling of used linen.
  • Used hospital linen must not be rinsed or sorted in patient-care areas or washed in domestic washing machines.

As outlined in the QLD Health Linen Management – Fact Sheet.

General Principles (Domestic Focus)

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gives the following recommendations on cleaning & disinfection for clothing, linen and other items for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases.

  • Wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry from an ill person and then discard after each use. If using reusable gloves, those gloves should be dedicated for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces for COVID-19 and should not be used for other household purposes. Clean hands immediately after gloves are removed.
  • If no gloves are used when handling dirty laundry, be sure to wash hands afterwards.
  • If possible, do not shake dirty laundry. This will minimise the possibility of dispersing virus through the air.
  • Launder items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.
  • Clean and disinfect clothes hampers according to guidance above for surfaces. If possible, consider placing a bag liner that is either disposable (can be thrown away) or can be laundered.

As outlined here Recommendations for Households.

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