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Top Tips for Maintaining and Cleaning Your Medical Scrubs | Steven John Cumper, B.App.Sc. (Osteo.)

How much time do you take to sort and separate your laundry? Many people simply choose a favorite setting on their washing machine which becomes a favorite over time.

Maintaining and cleaning medical scrubs requires a little more care. After all, you are not only giving them a quick wash to freshen them up. Instead, you are looking to remove unsightly stains, germs, and bacteria that could potentially be harmful to yourself and others. In this article, we have compiled some of our top tips for keeping your medical scrubs clean and looking fresh for longer.

The Importance of Maintaining and Cleaning Medical Scrubs

In hospitals and other healthcare settings, scrubs mark you out as a professional. They help you look sharp and are part of the first impression you make on patients and their families. In addition, scrubs are also practical and hard-wearing. If you look after them properly, you can enjoy using them for years to come.

But maintaining scrubs involves more than keeping a work uniform looking clean and crisp. As a healthcare professional, especially in frontline departments like the ER, you are regularly exposed to more than normal wear and tear.

Bodily fluids, germs, and stains are just three of the main things that can affect the performance and longevity of your scrubs. More importantly, though, bacteria and germs you pick up on the hospital floor can put you, your family, and future patients in danger of illness or infection. That is why it is essential to clean and disinfect scrubs thoroughly after every shift.

Essential Tips for Maintaining and Cleaning Your Medical Scrubs

Just a few decades ago, medical scrubs used to come in green or blue, and more or less adhere to one type of fit. Staying comfortable during long hours on the hospital floor could be challenging. That situation is changing with more manufacturers and medical scrubs suppliers offering a wider range of more comfortable and flattering scrubs without compromising on versatility and functionality.

Before we look at the care needs of specific fabrics, though, here are a few tips to help you care for all your medical scrubs:

  1. Check out the instructions: if you have just bought a new set of scrubs, take a look at the care label. Scrubs are made to be worn and washed frequently. Following the best possible care routine for them can help prolong their life and keep them in top shape for longer.
  2. Consider prewashing your scrubs: if you have chosen scrubs with a strong color, it is worth prewashing them before you wear them for the first time. Prewashing helps to set the color. Choose a cold water setting and add half a cup of vinegar to your load to help vibrant colors look their brightest and prevent colors from fading or bleeding.
  3. Separate scrubs from other laundry: change out of your scrubs as soon as your shift ends, ideally before you leave work. Keep them in a disposable bag on your way home to prevent spreading bacteria, germs, and other unwanted substances.
    Once at home, keep your scrubs separate from other clothing to avoid cross-contamination. Wash them as instructed by the manufacturer and consider using a detergent that contains disinfectant as well as cleaning agents. Alternatively, adding half a cup of Pine-Sol to your detergent will take care of disinfection. Make sure you dispose of any scrubs laundry bags responsibly. The goal is to keep yourself and your family safe from germs and other substances.
  4. Treat stains: depending on the nature of your medical work, your scrubs may be lightly or even severely stained at the end of a working day. Some of those stains would resist a normal wash and require extra care and pre-treatment. Most can be removed with standard household substances. Take a look at this list of common stains and how to deal with them:
    1. Coffee stains: blot the stain to absorb any excess liquid, then sprinkle with baking soda and continue blotting.
    2. Sweat: sweat stains are perfectly normal, but they can ruin a set of scrubs if they don’t disappear in a wash. Pre-treat them by soaking your scrubs in a mix of cold water and a dash of vinegar.
    3. Blood: blood stains are among the most common stains affecting scrubs. Cold water and soap remove them effectively.
    4. Urine, vomit, and feces: urine stains may not be as visible as blood stains, but they can make your scrubs smell terrible. To remove the stain and the odor, mix cold water with ammonia before washing your work clothes. Vomit and feces can be removed with the same technique, although these stains may require repeated applications.
    5. Medication: oil-based or ointment-based medication could also stain your scrubs. To remove oil-based stains, sprinkle the stain with baby powder to absorb the oil. Adding dish soap before washing also helps. Ointment stains react well to being rubbed with corn starch and then washed in cold water.

If treating each stain separately sounds like too much work, you can also buy a multipurpose stain remover instead and soak your scrubs in it overnight before washing them.

Special Considerations for Different Types of Scrubs

Once stains have been removed from your scrubs, it would be ideal to wash them hot and tumble dry them on a high setting to kill most types of germs. However, not all materials will react well to this treatment and may lose their shape or color over time.

Aside from following the manufacturer’s instructions, here are some basic guidelines to help you get the most out of your new scrubs! Wash 100% cotton and polyester/rayon mixes on cold water cycles and hang or line dry. Some cotton can be tumble-dried on the lowest setting. Polyester/cotton and polyester/rayon/cotton mixes do better with a warm water wash, and they can go in the dryer on low heat.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning and disinfecting your scrubs are essential for a professional appearance and to keep yourself and others safe and protected from hospital-based bacteria and germs. Following our tips above will help you achieve that and keep your scrubs looking great for longer.

Author’s Bio:

Steven John Cumper, B.App.Sc. (Osteo.), M.Ost., is a businessman with a strong background in biomedical science and osteopathic medicine. He founded Medshop & ScrubsIQ while studying at RMIT University in Australia, expanding its reach to markets in Papua New Guinea, Singapore, and Malaysia. In September 2021, the Bunzl Group acquired a majority stake in Medshop, but Cumper remains involved as the Managing Director (Medshop Group). His journey from Zimbabwe to the UK and Australia reflects his dedication to academia and entrepreneurship, combining diverse knowledge and experience.

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