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Caregiving: Washing Soiled Clothes and Linens

Overview

Keeping clothes and bed linens clean can take time, but it's worth the effort. It can help the person you're caring for stay healthy and feel clean. Clothes and bed linens become soiled when they come into contact with things like urine, stool, or vomit. Washing soiled clothes and linens right away can help reduce the chance of infection from germs.

Soiled clothes and linens can spread germs, so be sure to handle them with care. You can wear disposable gloves if you have them. Hold soiled clothes and linens away from you, and keep them from touching clean surfaces or other clean linens.

If you can't wash dirty clothes or linens right away, store them in a tightly closed, disposable plastic bag or a container with a lid and wash them as soon as you can.

How to wash soiled clothes and linens

You can clean clothes and linens in a washing machine, using laundry detergent. You may want to wear disposable gloves when handling soiled clothes or linens. And always wash them separately from other items.

    For example:
    1. Using disposable gloves, wipe off any stool with paper towels. Put the used paper towels in a plastic trash bag. Small amounts of easily removed stool can be removed with toilet paper and flushed down the toilet.
    2. Put the soiled linens in a large plastic bag. The bag should prevent moisture from leaking through. Take the bag to the washing machine.
    3. Put the linens in the washing machine. Wash items in a prewash cycle first. Then use a regular wash cycle with detergent. Use the warmest temperature recommended on the labels.
    4. Take off your gloves and wash your hands right away after you handle the soiled clothes or linens.
    5. Throw away the plastic bag you used, or clean and disinfect any containers that the soiled clothes or linens were in.
    6. Dry clothes and linens in a clothes dryer. Use the warmest temperature recommended on the labels.
    7. Wash your hands before removing the clean clothes and linens from the dryer. Fold them on a clean surface.

Credits

Adaptation Date: 9/6/2023

Adapted By: Alberta Health Services

Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.