In zoning I mentioned that some tasks can’t be realistically accomplished in one zone, so you need to figure out a path. I’ll use laundry as an example as everyone has to do laundry.


Here the path from dirty to clean travels around the house. We separate dirty and clean areas and we make sure the path always goes in one direction “clockwise”: dirty to clean, if that makes sense. It’s a pretty basic idea I think.


Dirty laundry goes into the laundry sorter.

1: Red Bags (these can be put directly in the washing machine if necessary).

  • 1(a) Cleaning cloths, mop heads, tea towels. Everything in this bag is washed on the same setting.
  • 1(b) Person towels, flannels, hand towels, bedding (all whites). Everything in this bag is washed on the same setting. The setting is written on the bag, in laundry marker so the bag can also be washed.

2: My clothes go in this central bag. Mainly this is to make sure dirty cloths are accidentally thrown on my clothes instead of Stuart’s.

3: “Patient” clothes

His worn clothes go in here. Everything in this basket is washed on the same setting. The setting is written on the bag.

These bags lift off and are carried downstairs to be put straight into the washer. The bag returns to its hanger. So “dirty zone” is this sequence:

use (clothes on body/ cloth in hand) -> sorter -> washer


Clothes come out of the washer clean and are put into clean baskets that are kept directly in front of the washer and dryer.

They might be hung up or go in the dryer, but the rest of this sequence is clean zoned. This means we don’t put dirty clothes in the clean baskets or use the dirty bags to carry the clean clothes up.

I just got these from IKEA for like £2. Honestly nothing matters less–just get whatever so long as it can be cleaned. You might like to write CLEAN on these if you can find a marker that won’t come off.

Clean cloths live here
Clean towels live here
Clean bedding lives here etc etc

Like is always put with like. There’s no doubling up or mixing up of things. This is because the only way to get 15 random strangers to all do the same thing is to be SIMPLE, CLEAR and CONSISTENT. All the hand towels are the same and they live in the same place and are washed in the same way and that is that. You don’t need your hand towels to be some expression of your inner soul. Just buy 30 identical white hand towels and put them in a drawer marked “hand towels” and get on with your life.

The point of doing this, I should say, of getting this locked down to a set pathway is that it almost completely designs out the kinds of bad infection control habits everyone brings in from home (or care homes etc). Before I designed pathways for all tasks, we got repeated situations of things like: putting a dirty catheter on a pile of clean patient body cloths, storing cleaning cloths on the floor and reusing them, piling sheets with wound fluid on them on to clean undies, I could go on but the point is: cross contamination was a big problem and educating people was not effective. A very simple, limited, designed pathway has been incredibly effective, much much more than explaining infection control, which is a Sisyphean task with the kinds of turnover you can expect in care workers. I’ll write more about this in another post.