Laundry and Linen Services in Hospitals


Laundry service is responsible for providing an adequate, clean and constant supply of linen to all users. The basic tasks include: sorting, washing, extracting, drying, ironing, folding, mending and delivery. A reliable laundry service is of utmost importance to the hospital. In today’s medical care facilities, patients expect linen to be changed daily. An adequate supply of clean linen is sufficient for the comfort and safety of the patient thus becomes essential.

The term ‘hospital linen’ includes all textiles used in the hospital including mattress, pillow covers, blankets, bed sheets, towels, screens, curtains, doctors coats, theatre cloth and table cloths. Cotton is the most prefered and frequently used material. The hospital receives all these materials from different areas like Operation Theatre, wards, outpatient departments and office areas. The OT linen materials need special care since it has to be washed & sterilized carefully. So if possible, the hospital can go for separate laundry process for OT linen materials alone.

The hospital can either purchase washing machine or engage a washer man (dhobi) to manually wash the clothes

The main purpose of this department is to provide clean material to the patients and ensure that hygienic conditions are maintained in the process.

Most of the information given in the article are based on the practices being followed in the Aravind Eye Care System.


Responsibilities and Functions of laundry department

The responsibility of the department not only involves managing the technical operations but also making other decisions. This includes determination of the type of linen to be purchased, the quantity necessary to be kept in stock, establishment of quotas for various places where they are used.
The functions of the laundry services:
1. Collecting soiled linen from various places.
2. Sorting the linen and processing them
3. Inspecting and repairing or replacing damaged materials.
4. Distributing clean linen to the respective user departments.

6. Maintaining different types of registers.

Facilities and space requirements

The laundry should be located in an area that has ample daylight and natural ventilation. Ideally, it should be on the ground floor of an isolated building connected or adjacent to the water and power plant.
1. Space for heavy equipments like washing machine, squeezer etc.
2. Provision for supply of water and power.
3. Storage place for cleaning agents.
4. Space is also needed for sorting the soiled linen
5. Facilities to manually wash doctor’s uniform and clean other soiled linen.
6. Place for sewing, and mending area.
7. Place for ironing.
8.Desk to have registers and files.
9. Space in every ward for storing clean linen.

Control desk

The control desk is the nerve centre of the entire department and its efficiency determines the smooth operation and effectiveness of the department.It is the focal point for the dissemination of information and communication to various points in the department.

List of files and registers:
1. Linen stock register
2. Daily transaction register for wards
3. Daily transaction register for other areas
4. Dhobi pay register
5. Camp register

Human resources requirement for inside laundry services

This can be applicable for 50 and above bedded hospitals.

 No Human Resources
Required no.
Assigned task
Report to
Senior housekeeper  1 Controlling & Managing all activities in laundry Housekeeping manager
 2 Dhobi (according to the mix of washing by hand and machine)  1 Sorting, Washing, drying folding and ironing of all linen materials. Housekeeper incharge of laundry
 3 Sweeper (Part time)  1 Receiving & delivering the linen materials. Housekeeper incharge of laundry
 4 Tailor (part time Optional)
 1 Mending the damaged materials and stitching curtain pillow covers etc Housekeeper incharge of laundry

Note: If the hospital doesn’t have the tailor they can approach outside tailoring unit.
If the hospital does not provide machineries then they have to recruit more than one dhobi.

Selection of equipment

The selection of equipment of a proper size is most important for economical production. The laundry equipment should be carefully selected. The following factors should be kept in mind :
• Reasonable capital cost
• Availability of spare parts and ease of maintenance
• Efficiency in working under normal conditions.
• Economy in consumption of utilities like water and power etc.
• Continuity of workflow and reduction of manual effort

List of equipments

The following is a list of commonly used equipment in a laundry.
• Washing machine (non automatic) Capacity
- 30 bed sheets / load
- 60 Pillow covers / load
• Water extractor Capacity:
- 8 Bed sheets / load
- 30 pillow covers / load
• Flat work iron (calendaring) Capacity:
- 5 Bed sheets / load
- 6 pillow covers
• Hand iron box
• Sewing machine

Work schedule
To maintain and manage the laundry department effectively, the housekeeper should follow the planned work schedule

Daily work
• Clean all equipments in laundry
• Follow Daily Work procedure
• Check the equipment’s working condition

Weekly work
• Indent the washing agents from the stores on every Saturday
• Wash doctors coat on every Sunday and replace

Monthly work
• Check linen stock in the wards
• Calculate Monthly expenses
• Check the contaminated and faded, damaged fabrics and enter in the register

Care of linen materials
1. Linen materials should be stored in dry places
2. Using large amount of washing soda and bleaching agent can damage the linen.
3. Rinse the fabrics properly to avoid deposition of detergents
4. The materials should be dried out properly

Paramedical - AECS Illumination

Vol. IV, No.1, Jan - Mar 2004