Keeping your clothes clean and hygienic is an important part of daily life. When it comes to medical scrubs, it’s even more essential. Like all other surfaces in a hospital, scrubs can carry a range of diseases and bacteria. If you’re not careful, you could pass on these germs from one patient to another or cause an open wound to become infected.
The best way to protect your patients and your hospital is to properly wash and disinfect your medical scrubs. Though thoroughly cleaning your scrubs takes a little time and organisation, feeling confident that you’ve done everything possible to safeguard the people in your care is well worth the effort.
Importance of Keeping Scrubs Clean and Hygienic
Hospitals are packed full of potential contaminants, from airborne pathogens to bodily fluids. If these contaminants aren’t thoroughly removed from dirty scrubs, they can pose a danger to both patients and the medical professionals who care for them. Properly cleaning and disinfecting your scrubs will help to remove any viruses or bacteria that may be hiding in the fabric, helping you to protect your patients and minimise the risks of picking up an infection yourself.
Steps to Wash Scrubs
It’s important to follow set steps when washing your nursing scrubs. These steps are designed to help clean and disinfect scrubs without damaging the fabric the garments are made from. Do things in a different order and you risk baking stains in, bleaching your scrubs or missing the contaminants hidden deep within the fabric.
When you wash scrubs, it’s important to keep them separate from your regular clothes. This helps to avoid cross-contamination and allows you to treat your scrubs with specialist products if necessary. Always wear disposable gloves when handling soiled scrubs and sanitise your hands after cleaning your clothes.
Step 1. Pre-Treat Stains
Pre-treating stains makes them a lot more likely to come out in the wash. You can pretreat most stains with household cleaning products. For example, oil-based stains (like make-up or ointment) can be pre-treated with liquid dish soap. Simply rub the washing up liquid gently into the stain using a clean sponge, leave it for a few minutes and then pop it in the wash.
Most bodily fluids, like faeces, urine and vomit, can be dealt with using a mix of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and water. Iodine can generally be removed with white vinegar, washing up liquid and water, while blood stains can be treated by placing a drop of hydrogen peroxide directly onto the stain before washing.
Most stubborn stains can be treated with a specialist stain remover or rubbing alcohol. You can also use a colour-safe bleach to address especially tough marks and discolouration.
Step 2. Turn Your Scrubs Inside Out
Turning your scrubs inside out before you put them in the washing machine will help to prevent the colour of your scrubs from running and protect any antimicrobial finish they may have. This is especially important for cotton scrubs which are more likely to lose their colour if washed incorrectly. Turning your scrubs inside out can also help to prevent pilling and keep your clothes looking good for as long as possible.
Step 3. Wash in Warm Water
Before you wash your scrubs, it’s important to check the heat setting. Ideally, you want to wash your scrubs in warm water with a heavy duty laundry detergent. If you use hot water, you might end up baking the stains in, making them more difficult to remove in the long run. You may also find your scrubs are affected by shrinkage or that their colour begins to fade after a few washes on a high heat. On the other hand, a cold water wash is unlikely to remove all of the dirt ingrained in the fabric.
The first time you wash your scrubs after wearing them, just use a regular wash cycle. If the clothes are still stained or marked after this initial clean, you can use a more intense setting to try to lift the dirt and remove any imperfections.
Step 4. Disinfect
If you know you’ve come into contact with potentially harmful substances or infectious patients, you may want to disinfect your scrubs. White scrubs can be disinfected with standard chlorine bleach. If you have colourful scrubs, you can add pine oil to the wash, use a colour-safe bleach or put your clothes on a very hot wash to kill the germs. Adding a ¼ cup of white vinegar to your washer can also help to disinfect clothes and remove stains.
Step 5. Check for Stains
It’s really important to check your scrubs for stains before drying them, especially if you plan to use a tumble dryer. This is because it’s a lot more difficult to remove dried on stains from scrubs fabric. If you do find any stains or marks, put your scrubs on for another wash cycle using more heavy-duty or regular detergent. Pre-treating these stains before washing for a second time will increase the chances of them coming out clean.
Step 6. Dry
The quickest and easiest way to dry your scrubs is to put them in a tumble dryer. Use the lowest setting available to avoid shrinking your work uniform or damaging the fabric. Alternatively, hang your clothes on a washing line in the fresh air until they’re dry.
Is It Necessary to Wash Scrubs After Every Use?
Wearing clean, fresh, hygienic scrubs for every shift is essential. So, if you don’t have an endless supply of new scrubs to put on, make sure you wash your uniform after every use.
Can I Use Fabric Softener on My Scrubs?
Brands that manufacture scrubs for healthcare workers don’t recommend using fabric softener when cleaning the garments. This is because a lot of specialist healthcare scrubs are made from high tech textiles with specific functions. For example, some scrubs are designed to be moisture wicking and others to be antimicrobial. If you use fabric softener in your regular wash, it could reduce the effectiveness of these functions, making your scrubs less efficient.
Keeping scrubs, lab coats and other hospital garments clean and hygienic is essential if you’re going to look smart and protect your patients. Find out more, and learn about the stylish, high quality medical scrubs in our collection, by taking a look around today.