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Home Laundered Scrubs

The reality is most nurses wear their scrubs in and out of work for necessity. Most healthcare facilities do not offer laundering of our work attire or places to change from street clothes to uniform. Even many hospitals do not provide employees with institutional scrubs, even in the surgery department. Most if not all professional organizations take a firm stance against the practice of home laundered scrubs- but for many, institution provided and laundered scrubs are not an option.  So what are the guidelines for optimal laundering of contaminated scrubs and healthcare provider’s attire? Does your facility have a policy on home laundering?

The following recommendations are from the CDC and AORN with guidelines for optimal laundering:
  • Scrubs must be clean at all times. They must be changed when contaminated by blood or body fluids.
  • Wash scrubs in an automatic washer and hot-air dryer.
  • Launder in a washing machine using hot water >160 degrees F for a minimum of 25 minutes. Ensure that scrubs are kept completely submerged during the entire wash and rinse cycle to most effectively remove soil and microorganisms.
  • Use chlorine bleach and detergent. Chlorine Bleach is activated between 135 and 145 degrees. Detergents will help suspend soils and exhibit some micro biocidal properties. Chlorine alternatives may be effective as an antimicrobial agent, but studies are needed to determine efficacy as compared to chlorine bleach.
  • Launder surgical/medical attire as a separate and last load.
  • Wash hands immediately after placing scrubs in the washing machine.
  • Disinfect the door and lid of the washer after removing attire. This helps prevent the reintroduction of contaminants on clean attire.
  • Use the highest drying setting that the fabric can tolerate. Temperatures reached in the dryer have additional antimicrobial effects.
  • Promptly remove the scrubs from the dryer when they are dry.
  • Protect the scrubs from contamination during transfer and storage.
Some of these guideline may be hard to achieve in the home setting. For most our home water heaters are not set for temperatures over 160 degrees. As for chlorine bleach…….it is kind of hard to bleach those dark purple and patterned scrubs isn’t it? Call me old fashioned, but this is why I like medical professionals that wear white. In the days of my patient care and wearing my “work clothes” home, my first stop upon arrival home was the laundry room to deposit my contaminated clothes. This was an “odd” ritual to many of my family members; if they only knew what I was protecting them from!   As a healthcare provider are you implementing these laundering guidelines in your home?

Pedagogy blog written by Capra Dalton, RN,CEO.

Capra has more than 29 years of experience in infusion therapy and the instruction of licensed nurses in infusion therapy continuing education. Her experience comes from multiple infusion settings: acute care, ambulatory infusion centers, home infusion, long term care continuing education provider, and long term care pharmacy quality assurance consultant.
Posted: 9/30/2015 8:55:32 AM
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