Much remains to be elucidated about the epidemiology of nosocomial enterococcal infections. Enterococci are, however, known to be relatively thermotolerant, and several studies have shown that under laboratory conditions many strains are able to survive the time/temperature combinations of the UK Department of Health recommendations for the decontamination of used linen (HSG(95)18). We therefore wished to investigate the efficacy of decontamination of enterococci from hospital linen in working hospital laundries. The thermotolerance of 40 strains of Enterococcus faecalis and Enterococcus faecium was first determined. Reduction by a factor of greater than 105 was achieved in only two of 40 strains after 3 min at 71 C or 10 min at 65 C, the time/temperature combinations specified by the Department of Health for the disinfection of used linen. During experimental challenge of 10 working hospital laundries, however, we demonstrated successful decontamination of laundry artificially contaminated with enterococci. This was shown to take place during the washing stage. Our study suggests that, despite the relative thermotolerance of enterococci, the time/temperature combinations specified in HSG(95)18 should be adequate for their decontamination in hospital laundries.