Issues Associated with the Decontamination of Laundry and Clinical Waste

Peter Hoffman*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    The decontamination of healthcare fabrics is one of the more undervalued areas of infection control with little clinical input. The majority of healthcare linens are decontaminated by laundering in a combined cleaning and thermal disinfection process. Those items that are contaminated with agents readily transmissible to those handling and sorting linen, should be identified and washed in washer-extractors. This is a slower, more costly process than the use of more efficient tunnel washers but does allow safe loading of machines with minimal contact. Heat-sensitive items are processed in washer-extractors using chemical disinfection. The segregation, transport and disposal of infectious healthcare waste (clinical waste) are a highly regulated sequence of events. The segregation of clinical waste arising from most healthcare activities depends on whether the waste is infectious, sharp, medicinal, cytotoxic/cytostatic, radioactive, mercury amalgam or anatomical; more than one attribute may apply. Each attribute or group of attributes will require segregation from others. Most infectious waste can be treated by cheaper, less environmentally-damaging alternatives to incineration, although other attributes such as anatomical or medicinal may necessitate incineration. Infectious healthcare waste has to be tracked from its point of production to its point of final disposal with a series of transfer notes. The category of "offensive" waste (waste such as incontinence pads that is offensive without being an infection risk) is an underused category with substantial cost savings possible if it were used more.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationRussell, Hugo & Ayliffe's: Principles and Practice of Disinfection, Preservation and Sterilization
    PublisherWiley Blackwell
    Number of pages7
    ISBN (Print)9781444333251
    Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2012


    • Decontamination
    • Disinfection
    • Laundry
    • Waste


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