COVID-19 Laundry PPE

Understanding Bloodborne Pathogens

Stop for a minute and look around at your laundry work area…

Do you know who is responsible for all of these wonderful machines?

No, not your employer, not the bank – not even LES! You can thank the ancient Romans for all of this ease and comfort.

Long ago, the Romans decided that wearing one toga for several days was just too disgusting. They proceeded to build the first large, commercial laundry buildings for washing those stained, dirty togas.

How did those first laundromats get the togas clean? Well, they stomped on them, beat them with thistles and hedgehog skin and, when all else failed – they had a secret weapon… but we’ll let you look that one up on your own!

Romans and laundry and bloodborne pathogens

Fortunately, your laundry has much more modern ways of dealing with messes like dirt, stains and…. bloodborne pathogens.

So, quick science lesson:

bloodborne pathogens microscopic

Microorganisms are bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses that are only visible with a microscope.

Bloodborne pathogens are the microorganisms that live in human blood.

These pathogens are responsible for viruses such as Hepatitis B and C and HIV.

So, science lesson over and back to laundry.

What’s the big deal about Microorganisms?

Microorganisms easily embed themselves in our clothing and bedding. The ancient Romans probably weren’t too concerned with the organisms that were living in their fabric but one of the  main reasons that we wash our laundry is to kill these organisms. If our laundry methods do not kill the pathogens, IN THE FIRST LAUNDERING, then those pathogens will spread to all of the laundry that you just cleaned.

We’ll insert a story here – just to scare you:

“Infection Control and Epidemiology” published a report of a Tennessee nursing home that had an outbreak of salmonella involving 32 residents and 8 employees. The outbreak was food related, but the employees all became infected 7 – 10 days after the residents. Three of the eight employees infected were laundry personnel. The rest handled room linens. In this case, the laundry staff regularly ate their home prepared meals in the laundry room. Protective Gloves to clothing (gloves, aprons, etc.) were never used by the laundry staff, except for the infrequent use of gloves. 1


But we won’t leave you worried and sick – we’ll help you remove those pathogens quickly and efficiently.

The first step is sorting!

Your best chance of quickly removing pathogens from your facility is isolating bloodied linens at the very beginning of your sorting process. If you isolate the linens you then only have to specially launder THOSE linens – not everything that came through your door today. You may want to check out our blog last month for more details on sorting!

Next step is to wash it out!

Washing the soiled linens isn’t as hard as you might think. Surprisingly, you don’t need a lot of fancy cleaners! Your best tools are heat and bleach! Start your wash cycle with a cold water rinse, to remove some of the matter. Follow with a warm water cycle to remove even more matter and then finish with a hot water wash. We’ll give you a helpful chart to make it easier: 1

laundry wash temps

Are you worried about using bleach on items that aren’t white? Clorox has a simple test for colored items  – as long as they aren’t wool, mohair, leather, spandex or silk!

  • Dilute 2 teaspoons bleach in ¼ cup water.
  • Apply a drop of this solution to a hidden part of the sheets, like the hem that gets tucked in at the foot of the bed.  For multicolored items be sure to check each color.
  • Wait 1 minute then blot dry.  No color change means the item can be safely bleached.2

So there you go – knowledge on how to rid your laundry of pathogens! Oh, and if you don’t want to use bleach on your linens – you can always do a search on that ancient Roman laundry secret!

Upcoming blogs:

  1. June 2018 – “To Bleach or Not”
  2. July 2018 – “Conquering Reclaim”



  • 1  “Laundry Sanitation.” US Chemical, 2016. Web. 15 April 2018.
  • 2  “Sanitizing Colored Laundry”. The Clorox Company, 2018. Web. 16 April 2018.