Linens are fabric household goods intended for daily use, such as bedding, tablecloths and towels. "Linens" may also refer to church linens, meaning the altar cloths used in church.
Cleaning household linens is done as appropriate to the type of cloth. Household linens are most likely to have stains from organic sources such as food, blood, and soil. If the linens are made of natural fibres such as linen or cotton, the cloth will need to be rinsed as soon as possible in cold water to prevent the stain from becoming permanent. Stains from red wine, or red or purple berries and fruit are an exception and must be washed in boiling water,:97 yet despite this, these stains may be impossible to remove. Otherwise, regular washing of household linens should be done in hot water for hygienic reasons, to destroy bacteria left on the linens from frequent use. Linen and cotton that are white may also become yellow over time, but this is eliminated by bleaching, either with liquid bleach, or by the traditional method of hanging the linens in the sun to let the sunlight bleach out the discoloration.
Industrial laundries were developed in the Middle Ages, when large convents and monasteries used their own facilities. Hospitals and boarding schools followed this example. Today, there are several types of industrial laundries. Hospitals often use laundry chutes to collect used linens. These are transported to an industrial laundry, where they are sorted into three categories: regularly soiled, infected, or staff uniforms. They are laundered as appropriate, usually at high temperatures, to ensure that viruses, bacteria, and soil are cleaned and that the linens are hygienic before being returned to the hospital.