How to Sterilize Your Uniform Before Returning to Work
Proper laundry procedures can keep your scrubs clean and prevent the spread of germs.
You’ve just finished a long shift of work, and you know you still have groceries to pick up and errands to run. By the time you make it home, carefully laundering, and sterilizing your medical uniform is the last thing on your mind.
As inconvenient as it may be, caring for your scrubs can extend their life and help prevent the spread of infectious diseases—both at home and within the hospital environment. By following these steps, you can keep your scrubs sanitized, cut down on stains, and keep them looking nice for longer.
1. Only wear your scrubs at work.
It’s tempting not to change out of your scrubs before you head home, and wearing your scrubs to work makes packing simpler. But wearing your scrubs to and from work gives them more time to attract stains and spread bacteria. It’s better to change at work and put your scrubs straight into the laundry bin when you get home.
2. Wash separately from your other clothes.
Your scrubs might have attracted some nasty contaminants during your shift, and you probably don’t want to wash them with the rest of your clothes for that reason alone. But there’s another good reason you’ll want to keep your scrubs separate: to keep your scrubs clean, you need to wash them for longer and at higher temperatures than your regular clothes. This adds wear to the cleaning process, and while it’s necessary for scrubs, your clothes can take a break.
3. Wash twice.
First, turn your scrubs inside out to prevent piling. Then wash your scrubs using cold water and regular detergent. This will help remove any stains from the fabric. Once you switch to hot water, some of the staining agents (particularly protein-based stains like blood) can bake into the fiber and be difficult to remove.
Once the first wash finishes, run a second wash using color safe bleach and hot temperatures. To kill most bacteria, you will need to wash your scrubs in temperatures of at least 140°F (60°C) for ten minutes.
4. Apply heat.
Put your scrubs in the dryer at the highest setting for at least 30 minutes to kill additional bacteria. At this point you’ve probably satisfied the requirements of the most rigid germophobe, but if you want to take it one more step (and look extra sharp), give your scrubs a quick iron. Then fold them and place them in a clean spot until you’re ready to take with you back to work.
Take care of your scrubs.
High heat and extra washing will have an impact on your scrubs. But so will leaving them untreated. Dirt and bacteria can wear down fabric just as much as the washing process, and stained scrubs need replacing more urgently than slightly faded ones. And at the end of the day, the extra precautions you take to clean your medical uniform can help you stay healthy and prevent the spread of germs. So take care of your scrubs, and they’ll take care of you.