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A Brief Overview of the Healthcare Laundry and Garment Industry

Importance of Clean and Luxurious Hospital Linens

Patients have a lot of anxiety about coming to the hospital for a procedure. Contracting diseases from soiled linens should be the least of their worries. Many hospitals are beginning to outsource linens for this reason. When linens are of high quality and feel great, patients experience less stress and anxiety.

Any stressors in the hospital can cause patients to produce cortisol. Cortisol can prevent or slow healing times. Patients should not be upset about sheets during a hospital visit because it will exacerbate their condition. Healthcare professionals should ensure that all sheets are laundered properly and disinfected. Improperly laundered linens can cause a person to never return to the hospital again.

Patient retention is as important in hospitals as it is in businesses. Hospitals must be diligent about providing comfortable linens that are laundered properly. To avoid paying for expensive equipment, many hospitals send linens to rental services. This helps hospitals ensure that they are in compliance with HIPAA regulations. When hospitals outsource, they also do not have to worry about BBP and OSHA compliance. Compliance would be required if the hospital had to hire staff or buy equipment.

Outsourcing Healthcare Laundry and Garments

Outsourced linen companies must be in compliance with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for controlling infection. These companies remove the responsibility from the hospitals and focus only on laundering healthcare linens according to rules and regulations. Outsourced companies will typically launder patient apparel, gowns, scrubs, surgical gowns, lab coats and bed linens.

Each item is individually wrapped to ensure sanitation and also to prevent cross-contamination between dirty sheets and clean sheets. This practice is recommended and is effective in many hospitals that are trying to maintain in compliance with the rules and regulations. Hospitals can save time and money by reducing the staff's responsibilities to work on the mundane tasks such as laundry. Staff can then focus on what matters the most: patients.

What to Know About Healthcare Laundry and the Garment Industry

Medical professionals who decide to launder their garments in-house should know how to perform this task properly. Here are some tips and guidelines about selecting medical garments and the proper way to launder them:


Medical scrubs should be laundered in a particular fashion to preserve the longevity of the scrubs. Scrubs are evolving, and some are even considered "high fashion." Washing scrubs incorrectly could result in set-in stains and fading. To reduce abrasion and to preserve the finish of 100 percent cotton scrubs, turn the fabric inside out. Then, dry the scrubs on the lowest setting.

To preserve the fabrics colors, add one-half cup of distilled vinegar during the rinse cycle. This will set the colors and soften the fabrics without commercial fabric softeners. If the scrubs are 65 percent cotton and 35 percent polyester, the scrubs should be washed in warm water. The scrubs can either be line dried or heat dryer cycle. Hot water should be avoided to extend the life of the scrubs. Stains may set in the scrubs with hot water.


High thread count bedding is most comfortable for patients. Select luxurious sheets for maximum comfort. To kill germs and bacteria on hospital sheets, the water temperature should reach at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Bleach and strong laundry detergent should be added to thoroughly clean and disinfect the sheets and bedding. The sheets should be dried on the highest setting. To further disinfect the sheets, spray the sheets with rubbing alcohol and prevent the spread of bacteria. The alcohol will evaporate quickly, and the sheets will be ready for use.

Lab Coats

Lab coats are now made of high quality materials and have stylish designs. The lab coat is the new suit jacket. Every one should select a lab coat that is most comfortable to them. Laundering lab coats is similar to laundering scrubs. Follow the directions as stated on the label to ensure the particular fabric is preserved during the process.

Patient Gowns

Patient gowns should be laundered to meet OSHA requirements. If the gowns are colored, they should be laundered similar to scrubs. If not, they can withstand higher temperatures as long as the stains will not set into the fabrics.

In-House Laundering or Outsourcing?

This will depend on the average volume of the hospital and whether the hospital can afford full-time staff to remain idle when they are not needed. Many hospitals prefer to have laundry on-premises immediately to avoid shortages during peak periods. Most hospitals are being enticed by outsourcing because the savings are far less than in-house services.

With in-house services, hospitals are required to pay for electricity, water, sewer and gas associated with laundering linens for an entire hospital. Machinery repairs and maintenance are an additional cost for in-house laundry. Installation may be an additional 50 to 70 percent over the cost of the machine.

In general, a laundry vendor should meet the following criteria:

1. Maintain a Large Product Inventory 2. Provides High Quality Clean and Disinfectant 3. Expeditiously Handle Product Shortages 4. Provide Easy-to-Read Invoices 5. Offer Numerous Options for Pick-up and Delivery

Outsourcing Healthcare Laundry Has Its Benefits

Outsourcing laundry is simply more cost effective. There are far more benefits to outsourcing than to hosting laundry in-house, but the choice continues to be a preference rather than a right or wrong way. Remember that not all outsourcing companies are the same. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages to determine which healthcare garment service is right for your company.