Ask the expert: Privacy curtain cleaning

By: October 29th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: What’s the OSHA requirement for laundering privacy or cubicle curtains in an ambulatory care setting?

A: OSHA does not have a specific requirement for laundering privacy or cubicle curtains, only that you include the frequency on your housekeeping schedule.

The CDC Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities document doesn’t help much, as it refers to window curtains and merely says: “Clean walls, blinds, and window curtains in patient-care areas when they are visibly dusty or soiled.”

For a more authoritative answer, we asked Steve MacArthur, safety consultant for The Greeley Company, and occasional blogger for OSHA Healthcare Advisor and more frequently for his own Mac’s Safety Space.

Here is what he had to say on the subject:

I don’t know that you’re going to find very much in the way of guidance because the answer to the question of “how often would one change the cubicle curtains” is “it depends.”

There are a ton of variables, but let’s get the hard and fast stuff out of the way:

Soiled cubicle curtain – change it

Precaution patient discharged – change it (there are probably instances in which changing is not necessary, but it’s not a good practice to have front line environment services staff making the call on whether it should be changed or not). These are probably the most dire circumstances you’d encounter in the ambulatory setting.

The next tier is much grayer; for instance, if a patient is there (which wouldn’t happen in ambulatory, but I just want to use the example) for a month or more, it’s probably a good idea to think about changing.

Beyond that, you can certainly look at the manufacturer recommendations for cleaning frequencies; some facilities do them annually, some semi-annually, some quarterly.

Some facilities rent the cubicles and as a function of that rental, the vendor supplies the labor for changing them out. In situations where you don’t have a complete set to change out, the change is done in phases.

Also, some facilities  will change them out when a room is empty as a function of being able to access the space.

Of course, then there are the issues of wear and tear—cubicle curtains can get beat up pretty quickly, which also indicates time to change ‘em out.

Do you have different policies for changing privacy/cubicle curtains in your healthcare facility? Let us know in the comment section below.


So, are you telling me that the curtains around the cubicle’s that we use for EKG, x-rays (for pt’s to change in) & where we have patients lay down to have their blood drawn need to be laundered on a regualar basis. The physicians office that I work at has not had this done in the last 7 years if at all.

By David LaHoda on October 29th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Trish: Assuming that your question was not rhetorical and that you really want an answer, I have to point you to the qualifier in the blog post above: “‘How often would one change the cubicle curtains’ is ‘it depends.’”

But think about it. How many things do you use on daily basis that have not been cleaned in seven years.? And are you comfortable with that?

We have changed from laundering cubicle curtains 1x/qtr to 1x/mo after we considered how often and by whom curtains were handled and the various stains noted on the curtains.

By Kevin Bryant on November 9th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Also keep in mind that privacy/cubicle curtains must be maintained according to manufacturer’s instructions in order to preserve “flame resistant” properties, in accordance with Life Safety Code. If the curtains are laundered incorrectly, or too often, flame resistant properties can degrade or be completely “washed away”… (Ref: NFPA 101, Ch. 10, Section 10.3.1)

I have read your article regarding the cleaning of the cubicle curtains in the ambulatory surgery centers. Are there any quidelines or regulations from the CDC, JCAHO or the Contiminated Laundry Standards indicating how often the cubicle curtains should be cleaned in the Hospital setting. Especially in the areas of ER, ICU, PACU etc.

By David LaHoda on December 5th, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Helen, I know of no specific guidelines by regulatory or accreditation organizations. If there were, I’m sure Steve MacArthur’s comments would have touched upon them. Best advice is to follow his lead, contact the manufacturer for cleaning frequency or develop your own cleaning schedule.


Most modern hospital cubicle curtains are inherently fire retardent, meaning the flame resistancy cannot be washed out of the curtains regardless of times washed. I cannot imagine a facility that would wait longer than a 3 months to completely launder all of their facility’s cubicles from top to bottom, including the new gimmicky snap curtains.


Are there any recommended practices for daily disinfection? It was brought to my attention that we should be simply spraying the privacy curtains with a disinfectant daily and continue with our quarterly removal and washing of the curtains. Please advise. Thank you.

My company is in the process of setting up a rental program for these. We are also looking for guidelines for the frequency for cleaning the divider curtains. It seems there is no set guidelines except for “Based on what they look like”. We all know that just because it looks clean, doesn’t mean it is. If anybody has information on this, please email me at “ Thanks!

I seem to recall there is some new requirement / recommendation for having pull rods or plastic edges on privacy curtains?

What are your thoughts on plastic recyclable curtains? I am considering these for ease of use and cleanliness.

By Covoc Corporation on March 28th, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Covoc’s website has a lot of helpful tips regarding cubicle curtain care at Covoc cubicle curtains, cubicle tracks, hospital curtains and window coverings can be found in hospitals, medical offices, educational institutions and commercial office buildings.

Fox news and CBS had a story line September 2011 and June 2012 the curtain is ladened with the MSRA germ after one week of use. See below:

By Andrea Harper on August 13th, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Do you recommend changing privacy curtains after patient is identified with lice? The patients head sometimes brushes up against the curtains in the ED which has limited space.

By Leo Varshavsky on September 25th, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Angelica provides HOOKLESS cubicle curtains for all facilities. These take literally 20 seconds to change out. We have recyclable “single-use” curtains as well as them made out of fabric that we launder and disinfect on a regular basis (based on customers needs). They are the best in the business and we are the ONLY company that actually disinfects the curtains. Please contact me for more info. or 805-252-8409. Leo.

Time to look at Kwickscreen…

Are there any regulations on a slight transparency of the new curtains as opposed to our older ones. Any Thoughts


By Brenda Hyde on February 26th, 2015 at 3:40 am

What are your thoughts on how often (and properly) cubicle curtains should be changed after a MRSA, VRE, or C-Diff patient utilizes a designated bay for isolation in a PACU? In our PACU we use the same bay for a known infection isolation patient. The only thing constraining this patient from the rest of PACU is simply a curtain partially pulled on each side of the patient’s bed or cart. Thank you in advance for your response. I just want to stop the spread of HAI’S.

By Curtain Cleaning Adelaide on April 16th, 2015 at 8:13 am

Kornblums Onsite Mobile Dry cleaning specializes in curtain dry cleaning. Using our exclusive Chameleon Clean technology to clean any type of material and stains.

with the recent outbreak of mers cov and ebola, how frequent will the curtains be changed?

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By Mohammad Osama on September 2nd, 2019 at 7:24 am

I have read your article regarding the cleaning of the cubicle curtains in the ambulatory surgery centers. This housekeeping services is reliable and really affordable.

By Mohammad Osama on September 2nd, 2019 at 7:26 am

I have read your article regarding the cleaning of the cubicle curtains in the ambulatory surgery centers. This housekeeping services is reliable and really affordable.

Soiled cubicle curtain, that is probably the last thing we want to see in the ambulatory surgery centers. We should eash it frequently for a safer and cleaner environment. dry cleaning service

By Shari Courser on March 19th, 2020 at 2:39 pm

Are there any regulations that state you have to have a curtain in a clinic exam room. They are in the way and the door is always shut. Its an orthopedic office. Would like to get rid of them all together. Can I?


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