As a healthcare worker, you come into contact with all kinds of germs over the course of a single day — and so does your uniform. We’re sharing how to keep your scrubs clean for your own safety as well as the well-being of your patients, coworkers and loved ones.
General Care Techniques for Scrubs
Keep your scrubs clean and disinfected with the following care techniques:
- Pretreat your scrubs.
Prior to your first wear, you’ll want to wash your new scrubs separately from your other laundry in cold water. Adding a cup of vinegar to the wash helps prevent color fading, and it helps to extend the life of the scrubs, as well. Vinegar treatments make scrubs more durable and better able to withstand exposure to common medical disinfectants.
- Treat and disinfect.
To remove stains and disinfect your scrubs, first wash your uniform in cold water with regular detergent. It’s best to set the load size to the maximum setting to allow your scrubs plenty of movement for a deeper clean. Check them for any remaining stains once the first wash is complete, and wash them again if needed.
Hot water is often recommended, but most leading detergents kill 99% of bacteria when used with warm water instead. Hot water has a tendency to set stains, and it’s harder on scrub fabrics in general.
- Wash your scrubs inside-out.
One of the best ways to help your scrubs last is by washing them inside-out after the first wash. Doing so protects the outer fabric and prevents fading.
Dry your scrubs on the lowest tumble dry setting of your dryer or let them line dry to help prevent shrinking and fading.
- Use bleach sparingly.
Avoid using bleach on monogrammed scrubs, as the bleach can cause the monogramming to fade. Bleach is also known to turn plastic buttons yellow, so avoid using it on your lab coats and buttoned jackets.
5. Soften your scrubs.
Adding 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar to the wash can actually soften your scrubs in place on traditional fabric softeners.
- Handle soiled scrubs with care.Obviously, soiled scrubs can contain all kinds of bacterial and viral infections that no one wants to be exposed to. Protect yourself and your family members by keeping these scrubs separate from all other garments and washing them apart from other scrubs. It’s also a good idea to wear disposable gloves when handling soiled scrubs, and make sure you carry the laundry as far away from your face as possible.
- Only wear your scrubs at work.
Scrubs are probably the last thing you want to wear on your time off, but saving your scrubs exclusively for your job goes beyond your sense of style.
You want to protect your scrubs from contaminants, and that means bringing them with you to your job site in airtight bags and then changing into them as you start your shift. Similarly, always take off your scrubs as soon as possible after your shift to further protect your own health.
How to Handle Specific Stains
Blood stains: The main thing to remember about blood stains is that they’re best treated with cold water. Hot water further sets these stubborn stains, making them that much harder to lift from your scrubs. Rub the affected areas under running water until the water runs clean, and then apply heavy-duty laundry detergent to the stain. Rub the detergent into the stain, and allow it to sit for roughly 10 minutes. Launder the item as usual.
Vomit, urine and feces stains: Much like blood stains, these bodily fluids respond best to cold water. Run the stained clothing under a cold rinse, and then treat the affected area with a heavy-duty fabric detergent. Feel free to add ½ cup baking soda in order to eliminate lingering odors.
Ointment stains: Oil-based ointment stains are best treated with warm or hot water. Simply wipe off any lingering ointment residue, and then apply a heavy-duty detergent to the affected area of your scrubs. Allow the detergent to soak into the stain for 10 minutes, and then wash the item in hot water.
Medication stains: If your scrubs are stained with liquid medication, you’ll want to submerge them in a mixture of cool water and an oxygen-based bleach (such as Oxiclean or Clorox 2). Allow the scrubs to soak for at least an hour or overnight. Follow by laundering the scrubs as usual.
Iodine stains: Always start by soaking iodine stains in a mixture of warm water and detergent for approximately 20 minutes. Once the garment has sufficiently soaked, wash it once more in warm water and detergent plus an oxygen-based bleach. For especially persistent iodine stains, soak the affected scrubs in a mix of oxygen-based bleach and water overnight, and then launder it the next morning.
How do you care for your nursing scrubs? Let us know your insider tips in the comments!