Poor Hygiene in Nursing Homes

Poor hygiene in nursing homes increases the risk of patients falling ill and passing away. Nursing homes are required to maintain their premises within the standards set by the medical community. Victims of neglect or abuse in nursing homes and their families may have the right to file a lawsuit.

Senior People in Nursing Home

Nursing homes have an obligation to their residents to maintain a clean and sanitary facility. With so many people coming in and out each day, it is necessary to regularly clean, including bleaching the facility, to minimize the risk of illness and disease.

Many residents in nursing homes have serious health conditions requiring a clean environment. Failing to provide a sanitary space for seniors may lead to infections and the rapid spread of contagious diseases. Therefore, the right hygiene is essential. If your loved one is injured because a nursing home did not maintain a clean facility, then you may be able to pursue a claim for nursing home abuse or neglect.

We have put together this document to help you understand the importance of nursing home hygiene and when poor hygiene may result from nursing home neglect.

What is the importance of good hygiene in a nursing home?

Poor hygiene in a nursing home is problematic because it opens up a greater risk for infection and the spread of disease. When residents live in conditions with excessive bacteria and other germs, they are more likely to fall ill and spread their illness to others.

Proper hygiene in a nursing home limits the likelihood of that happening. Nursing homes should regularly clean the floors, sanitize the bathrooms, wipe down countertops and surfaces, and maintain a high level of cleanliness throughout the facility. The staff should also help residents bathe or shower regularly so they have good personal hygiene to avoid developing infections or spreading germs themselves.

Poor Hygiene in Nursing Homes

The problem with poor hygiene is that it spreads germs. It is essential that nursing home staff members:

  • Clean showers, baths, and bathrooms regularly
  • Sanitize bathrooms and showers, as they are high-risk areas
  • Regularly clean linens and residents’ clothing with sanitizing solutions or hot water
  • Use hospital-grade cleaners and disinfectants to reduce the risk of MRSA and other severe illnesses

Nursing home staff members should follow the four steps of effective cleaning to ensure that the facility maintains a high level of cleanliness. These steps include:

  1. Removing debris from common areas, surfaces, and the floor
  2. Wiping down all surfaces
  3. Using hospital-grade disinfectants to clean surfaces
  4. Sanitizing surfaces in high-risk areas

Failing to clean on a regular schedule or respond to accidents, such as spills, could constitute neglect.

Staff members should also help patients with their hygiene. Bathing daily is preferred, as is good dental hygiene and proper grooming. These actions help minimize the risk of illness, so the germ load in the facility remains low.

Recognizing Poor Hygiene in a Nursing Facility

What does poor hygiene in a nursing home look like? It might be as simple as the staff members not washing their hands regularly or failing to clean up the nursing station.

Bad hygiene could also include signs like:

  • A heavy smell of urine
  • Blood spills on the floor left in place after a fall
  • Uncapped, used needles left in patients’ rooms
  • Residents who appear not to have been recently bathed or showered
  • Spills that haven’t been cleaned up
  • Overflowing trash
  • Soiled clothing on residents
  • Residents or staff members with dirty nails
  • Not changing adult diapers often enough (or failing to take them out to the trash)
  • Open sharps containers
  • Biohazards left out in the open
  • Dirty tables or chairs in dining halls or rooms

Diseases may occur because of a lack of cleanliness in nursing homes. Bacteria, viruses, and fungi may lurk in bathrooms, on tables, or in the air when appropriate action isn’t taken to reduce their presence.

Is understaffing a cause of uncleanliness in nursing homes?

A nursing home’s staffing level directly correlates with its overall standard of care, according to PubMed Central.

Understaffing can be a major cause of uncleanliness. Nurses and staff members may feel rushed and think they don’t have time to wash their hands or sanitize between patients. As a result, they may quickly transfer germs and spread contagious illnesses from one patient to another.

Understaffing may also lead to the hiring of individuals who are not trained to handle cleaning tasks or patient interactions. These individuals may not know the standards required and fail to put on gloves or wash their hands when working with patients.

A third problem is that understaffing also leads to inadequate resident monitoring and assessment. Nursing homes may have so little staff that ill patients are not moved to hospitals as soon as they should be, greatly increasing the risk of an illness or disease spreading due to a lack of quarantine restrictions.

A failure to meet staffing standards may constitute nursing home neglect or malpractice, which is something for families of those affected to keep in mind.

How should nursing homes be cleaned?

Nursing homes are expected to be clean. To properly clean a resident’s room, it is necessary for the staff to:

  • Disinfect surfaces
  • Sweep or mop the floor with specific solutions that aim to reduce viruses, bacteria, and fungi
  • Replace cleaning supplies regularly so the tools themselves are not spreading germs
  • Clean on a schedule, which may include hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning tasks

During a viral or bacterial outbreak in the nursing home, cleaning may need to occur more often. Daily cleaning, including light fixtures, fans, window coverings, and bed linens may be necessary as a response, according to Clean Method.

Lawsuits Filed in Response to Poor Hygiene in Nursing Home Care Facilities

Victims and their families can file lawsuits against nursing homes that do not maintain the appropriate level of cleanliness at all times. Poor hygiene is a type of neglect, and the nursing home itself may face charges of neglect or malpractice for failing to provide a safe, clean environment for its residents.

If your loved one has suffered from health complications due to living in an unclean nursing home, it is appropriate to look into making a claim. You may be able to obtain damages to compensate your loved one or your family for the illness or death resulting from the facility’s lack of care.

Our website has more information about nursing home neglect and the steps to take if your loved one has been injured or has passed away as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect.

Medically Reviewed by:

Dr. Patricia Shelton, MD

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  • University of Washington, Doctor of Medicine – MD. June 2008
  • University of Washington, Bachelor of Science – BS, Jun 2003


Neuroscience and Medicine


  • Dr. Shelton primarily writes content for health-related websites, but has also written test prep materials, white papers, published research articles, court documents, and more.
  • Dr. Shelton teaches anatomy and physiology at the college level for the National Institutes of Health.

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Nursing Home Abuse Should Have Consequences.

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Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.
Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.