Few things are worse than having your favorite medical scrubs fall victim to wear and tear long before you are ready to let them go. Unfortunately, properly caring for nursing scrubs is a common challenge. Nursing is a physically, mentally and emotionally damaging career. At the end of a long day, laundry is the last thing that most healthcare professionals want to think about.
The pure white nursing scrubs of years past were relatively easy to wash and sanitize using regular chlorine bleach. But today’s colorful and stylish jogger scrubs for women and other styles can’t withstand being laundered using such harsh chemicals. Bleach destroys colors and prints and can weaken the fabric or cause holes. Knowing how to care for your scrubs properly is essential if you want to keep them clean, sanitary and looking like new for as long as possible. Keep reading to discover a few helpful tips on taking care of your nursing scrubs.
1. Pre-Treat New Scrubs
When you buy yourself some new scrubs, pre-treat them before wearing them to work for the first time. This is especially important for vibrantly colored scrubs because this step helps set the dye and prevent fading.
To pre-treat your new scrubs, launder them in cold water and add half a cup of white vinegar to the load. If you have multiple sets to pre-treat, be sure to separate your light-colored scrubs from darker-colored ones. It’s best to pre-treat prints individually too. Taking the time to properly pre-treat your scrubs now will make them easier to care for in the future.
2. Use Color-Safe Stain Remover
Stains are almost inevitable for nurses. From blood to chemicals, there are all sorts of unpleasant things that can soil your uniforms each day. While properly washing your scrubs will make them clean and sanitary, failure to remove the stain will make them appear unhygienic. Plus, stained scrubs are unprofessional.
Before washing your scrubs, be sure to treat spots using a color-safe stain remover. Read the label carefully and follow the instructions to avoid damaging your scrubs. When in doubt, test new products in inconspicuous areas to make sure they don’t cause any damage.
3. Never Wash Your Scrubs with Other Laundry
Washing scrubs isn’t the same as washing your other apparel. In addition to cleaning them, you need to make sure they are disinfected before wearing them again. The extra disinfecting cycle can damage your regular clothing. Plus, heavier items, like jeans and jackets, can damage delicate scrubs in the wash. To protect all of the garments in your wardrobe, always wash your garments separately from your non-work attire.
4. Run Two Wash Cycles
Once you have pre-treated your scrubs for stains, turn them inside out. Then, run them through a regular wash cycle using cold water and regular detergent. Even if you are only washing a few garments, select the largest load size to ensure there is plenty of room for your scrubs to move around.
Remove the garments from the washer and check them for any remaining stains. If there are still spots, pre-treat and wash in cold water again before moving on to the second wash cycle.
After washing your scrubs in cold water and making sure any stains have been removed, wash again using hot water. Add color-safe bleach to your machine’s bleach dispenser. Or, if your washer doesn’t have a dispenser, add it directly to the water while the machine is filling. The use of color-safe bleach disinfects scrubs without damaging them like regular bleach.
5. Dry Using High Heat
Place your scrubs in the dryer and select the highest heat setting. Run for 30 minutes (or longer, if necessary, to dry your scrubs thoroughly). In addition to drying your clothing, this step will kill any bacteria that may still be present on the fabric.
Unless your scrubs specifically say not to iron them, ironing is generally recommended for scrubs. In addition to giving your workwear a crisp, professional appearance, using an iron is an extra step in eliminating lingering bacteria from your scrubs. This is especially beneficial if you have an older dryer or one that just does not get very hot.
There are countless microorganisms in healthcare settings, so it’s extremely important to make sure you sanitize your scrubs between wearings. This is more important now than ever before in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to safety and sanitation, it’s better to be overly cautious than run the risk of wearing unsanitary scrubs.
7. Inspect Your Scrubs and Make Minor Repairs
Before folding or hanging your clean scrubs, look them over for lingering stains, loose threads or signs of damage. Stains may be nearly impossible to remove after washing with hot water and machine drying, but you can try. You may need to retire scrubs that still have particularly stubborn stains after laundering.
Snip away loose threads and repair small holes. Tending to minor problems now means they won’t cause serious wardrobe malfunctions during your next shift. Doing so also helps prevent additional damage to your scrubs, so you can get as much wear out of them as possible.
When it comes to taking care of your nursing scrubs, following the steps above is the best way to keep your workwear looking its best while ensuring that it’s germ-free before your next shift. If your closet is filled with old scrubs that are barely hanging in there, consider upgrading to some higher-end scrubs. While they may cost you a bit more upfront, quality scrubs stand up to repeated laundering better than less expensive ones. Plus, they often have features, like antimicrobial fabric, to help them remain more sanitary.
Whether you’re trying to get the most life out of your old scrubs or hoping to give your new ones the best possible care, the suggestions above will help you meet your goal.