Apr 14, 2023

How frequently should linen be changed in aged care facilities?

14_4_23 laundry HC

In recent times, aged care workers have expressed their concerns about the laundry practices conducted in the residential aged care facilities they work at.

Laundry and linen changing is very important to manage infection control and hygiene standards for residents and aged care workers.

But some aged care workers have reported that facility management had told the cohort that residents’ sheets aren’t to be changed outside of the once-a-week schedule unless they are soiled with vomit, faeces or other bodily excrements. Residents are also allocated one towel every two days. 

So is this common practice among all residential aged care facilities?

Daniel*, another source who used to work as an Assistant in Nursing (AIN) told the activism organisation, Green Left, that there is a constant backlog of laundry at his facility due to management’s decisions to cut costs.

Daniel said that because management refuses to hire staff on Sunday and pay the penalty rates, no laundry is done on Sunday.

What are the standards?

The laundry expectations at every aged care facility can differ from home to home, and even from resident to resident, but must abide by the Aged Care Quality Standards.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) noted that care settings using reusable linen need to have a policy outlining when to change linen, precautions when handling soiled linen, and the procedures for washing, drying and storing linen in accordance with the current relevant standard. 

Facilities properly laundering reusable linen such as bed sheets and towels are paramount to ensuring proper care is given to residents. However, residents have the right to discuss their care needs with their provider which may include more laundry needs.

According to the standard, reusable materials must be laundered, packaged and sterilised after a single use, onsite or by an accredited laundry service provider.

RACGP also said If laundering is done onsite, laundry staff must receive education and training to perform these duties in line with the standard.

How often should linen be changed if used?

These reusable materials must be changed if:

  • They have been used by a resident with contact precautions. For example, they are known or suspected of having scabies, lice or skin infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
  • The materials are visibly soiled by bodily excrements such as blood or vomit 
  • The materials have an odour
  • Before a resident has a minor surgical procedure

Precautions for aged care workers

If you’re an aged care worker, you will need to use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)  such as gloves, masks, aprons and safety glasses.

The person handling these materials must:

  • Check for and safely remove any sharps or other objects before handling
  • Avoid squeezing or rolling materials up tightly in case there are hidden sharps
  • Avoid unnecessary handling or shaking materials to avoid dispersing potential pathogenic microbes into the air
  • Place used materials into a covered, lined container while waiting for them to be cleaned, away from clean materials and preferably in a designated ‘dirty’ utility area
  • Materials that are wet with blood or other fluid body substances should be placed in a transparent plastic bag or alginate bag supplied by the laundry, before being placed in the used linen receptacle

If you think your facility hasn’t got an appropriate laundry policy or if a resident requests more laundry services, you should talk to your management team.

Alternatively, if you are a resident or a worker who has queries, complaints or feedback about your facility, you can contact the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission at 1800 951 822 or submit your request via their website

What do you think? Should linen be washed more frequently? Let us know in the comments below.

*Daniel is a pseudonym

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  1. It is funny that this topic has come up. Our family changes the linens daily saving the support staff time in their day!! I have noticed the dreadful condition of the linens used in my relative’s care facility. They are very stained and many have holes or are threadbare. I’m wondering how frequently linens are replaced?
    This certainly indicates that our seniors dignity is not a priority!!
    None of us would be happy sleeping on such disgusting bedding!

  2. Sheets,blankets should be washed when soiled or food stains. Some residents need sheets washed every day due to being highly incontinent even when they can be toileted often they remove their pads. If so.eone is sweaty and there is a bad odor then they should be replaced. Towels are usually replaced when needed as some residents refuse regular showers but I always give some residents 3 towels each and a washer. If I shower them and towels are soaked I replace them after a shower. They should get fresh linen as soon as they need them. Never heard of the 1 towel policy. That is disgusting and management’s ideas at saving $$ on laundry staff. Hygiene is so important with elderly anyone who knows this would be horrified at a 1 towel every 2 days policy. Not good!

  3. Wow aged care has certainly gone backwards since l worked in the industry.We changed linen every day,and multiple towels every day.and were encouraged to.l cant believe how backwards it has all become.Disgusting.

  4. Laundry like every normal home should be changed and freshened up. How nice is it to sleep in fresh clean sheets. The other times are when needed, if soiled, a person unwell
    , please don’t say we are cost cutting to the point of linen.

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