As a nurse, you’re on your feet often, and your job may require bending, lifting, or stretching. Scrubs should be comfortable, wrinkle-free, and clean – you’re a professional, after all! Let’s learn how to wash scrubs and more to keep them in great shape!
Nurses need to move and perform well, kind of like an athlete. Your scrubs are among the most essential gear to help you do just that. From my experience, I can say that giving my scrubs proper care has been the key to helping them last long and look good.
Here are my top tips for how to wash, dry, and store your scrubs to keep them looking their best.
Start With Good Scrubs
Your scrubs are your uniform. Get the best to look your best!
1. Invest In Good Quality Scrubs
To keep your scrubs in good shape, start with high-quality scrubs. You’ll have to replace them less often, so they’re a worthwhile investment.
2. Only Wear Your Scrubs To Work
Let’s face it, scrubs are super comfortable. It can be tempting to treat them as loungewear. But avoid wearing them when you’re not on the job. Depending on your work environment, your scrubs could potentially harbor pathogens. Only wearing your scrubs when you’re at work also helps preserve them so they last longer. And of course, your healthcare facility may have specific requirements about changing into and out of scrubs on-site only. Make sure you know your dress code and related requirements so you can be at your professional best!
3. Have multiple pairs of scrubs
If possible, having multiple sets of scrubs to rotate through can help reduce wear and tear and keep them looking better longer. Having several pairs also allows for a rotation system, ensuring you always have clean scrubs available while others are being washed. And if your nursing role calls for it, having a spare pair of scrubs at work can be helpful if the pair you’re wearing is unexpectedly soiled.
Learn How to Wash Scrubs
Keeping scrubs clean is so important for creating a professional look. Learn how to wash scrubs to keep them looking their best.
4. Pre-treat stains
Nurses encounter all types of spills and stains, so it’s important to know how to wash scrubs. Using a little soapy water or a stain stick to pretreat any stains can work wonders. For stubborn stains, let the stain soak for at least 30 minutes before throwing your scrubs in the wash.
Portable stain remover sticks or enzyme-based pretreaters are also good for treating stains on the go. If your scrubs get stained during your shift, a stain stick may even remove the stain instantly, or at least make it less noticeable.
Treating different types of stains:
- Rinse immediately with cold water.
- Apply hydrogen peroxide, letting it bubble on the stain.
- Rinse again with cold water and repeat if necessary.
- Wash in cold water (hot water will set blood stains, making them harder to remove)
Vomit or Bodily Fluids:
- Remove excess with a disposable wipe.
- Blot but don’t scrub, which may push the stain deeper into the fabric.
- Rinse the area with cold water. (Hot water will set the stain.)
- Apply enzyme-based stain remover and let it sit for several minutes.
- Wash in warm water with a heavy-duty detergent.
Oil-based stains (ointment, lotion, etc.)
- Apply dish soap or stain remover directly to the stain.
- Gently rub the fabric together or use a soft brush.
- Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing with hot water.
- Launder as usual.
5. Separate colors
The last thing you want is a bright red sock or other stray article of clothing staining all your scrubs pink! Carefully separate bright colors when you wash your scrubs to avoid any colors bleeding onto them. Scrubs are workwear, and dinginess or unusual colors resulting from a washing mistake can look unprofessional.
6. Wash your scrubs at the correct temperature
Turn your scrubs inside out before you wash them. Check the manufacturer’s label for washing instructions, but as a rule, wash 100% cotton scrubs in cold water. Cotton/polyester blend scrubs can be washed in warm water. Avoid hot water, which can set in stains and deteriorate fabric over time.
7. Dry with low heat
Most scrub brands recommend low heat for drying to prevent shrinking. Use the Delicate/Gentle or Air Dry setting on your dryer. If your dryer has an automatic-dry feature with a sensor that shuts the machine off when your clothing is dry, use that to avoid over-drying and help conserve energy.
8. Don’t leave scrubs in the dryer
Scrubs will wrinkle if you leave them in the dryer for too long, so make sure you remove them promptly. This will help you avoid the need to iron them. If you remove your scrubs from the dryer as soon as they’re done and either hang or roll them, they can remain wrinkle-free for your next shift.
9. Iron or steam if needed
If you need to iron your scrubs, follow the manufacturer’s guidance. No guidance to follow? Stick with a warm setting just to be safe. You can also steam your scrubs if you prefer. Most cottons and polyesters can be steamed, but make sure the clothing label doesn’t say to avoid steam just in case.
Store Your Scrubs Properly
How and where you keep your scrubs when they’re not in use is also essential to helping them stay sanitary, last longer, and look better.
10. Don’t put your scrubs away damp
Make sure the scrubs are completely dry before storing them. Damp clothing can become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. It’s preferable to use a dryer or ensure they are fully air-dried in a clean area.
11. Roll Your Scrubs
Who hates those horrendous creases that form in folded clothes? I know I do! One great way to store your scrubs is to roll them. This will keep them wrinkle-free while also preventing ugly (and potentially uncomfortable) creases from forming.
How do you roll your scrubs? Lay out your scrub top or pants, smooth any wrinkles, and then roll it tightly into a log shape. Place them in your drawer or wherever you like to store them. And speaking of storage …
12. Store scrubs separately or covered
If possible, store scrubs in a space like a drawer or a closet where they’re protected from dust, pet hair, and other environmental contaminants. Using garment bags for hanging scrubs can provide an extra layer of protection. Avoid hanging your scrubs in areas with the potential for contamination, such as your bathroom or kitchen.
Learning how to wash your scrubs and take good care of them will keep them long-lasting and comfortable. Your scrubs are your nursing uniform! You should feel strong and powerful in them because you’re doing strong and powerful work.
Pooja Patel is a registered nurse of eight years with a master’s degree in nursing leadership. Her primary specialty is in women’s health. She has worked as a labor and delivery nurse, fertility nurse, and now a fertility nurse manager. She has also worked in corporate insurance and ambulatory care. Pooja started her wellness and lifestyle blog, Nurse Bestie, to help overwhelmed nurses conquer their stress and learn how to live a happy and healthy life. She’s passionate about being healthy and sharing all of its life-changing benefits for busy nurses.