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Scrub Care: How to Wash & Dry Medical Scrubs

When you’re in the medical field, scrubs become a second skin. They’re your uniform and your armor and need to be kept clean. But how do you properly wash scrubs to ensure they’re disinfected and ready for your next shift?

Washing scrubs is different from washing regular clothes. You need to take specific steps to ensure they’re thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Let’s dive into the process and ensure your scrubs are always fresh and ready for action.

Sort your scrubs

Before washing, sorting your scrubs is an essential step you can’t dodge. You wouldn’t want color bleed accidents or cross-contamination between heavily soiled and slightly used scrubs, would you?

Begin sorting your scrubs by color. Dealing with colorful scrubs may seem a trifle, but it’s essential to prevent color bleed that can ruin your workwear. Keep your dark-colored scrubs separate from the lighter ones.

But wait! Sorting does not stop at color. You’ve got to sort by level of soiling as well. Group scrubs that are heavily soiled or exposed to infectious substances separate from those with less exposure.

It gets interesting, though, because we’ve got a third criterion—fabric type. Your scrubs may likely be made from various materials like cotton, polyester, or a mix of both. Notably, different fabrics require different care. By sorting them according to their fabric type, you’re on your way to optimizing their lifespan and maintaining their professional look.

Let’s get a quick recap. Sorting scrubs is essential before washing, and you’ve got to sort by:

  • Color
  • Level of soiling
  • Fabric type

This will ensure that your scrubs are well-maintained and withstand the rigorous conditions of your daily shifts. Now, you’re ready for the next step: soaking your scrubs.

Pre-treat any stains

Now that you’ve sorted out your scrubs, it’s time to tackle the next phase: pre-treating any stains, one of the top tips according to the Marian University Leighton School of Nursing. Your job in the medical field might expose your scrubs to all sorts of stains, from blood and bodily fluids to ink and food spills. It’s essential to pre-treat these stains before throwing your scrubs into the washing machine to maintain the integrity and aesthetics of your uniform.

Pre-treating stains seems like extra work, but it’s a surefire way to clean your scrubs properly. So, let’s get started.

First, examine the scrubs for any noticeable stains. Look carefully because some may only show up once you’ve taken a closer look. Next, dab the stains with a clean, damp cloth. This will help to lift some of the stains off the fabric before you apply a specialty stain remover.

Once you’ve dabbed the stains, apply a small amount of a quality stain remover. Choosing a stain remover suitable for the material type of your scrub is essential. Gently rub the remover into the stain using a soft cloth and let it sit per the manufacturer’s instructions.

For tough stains such as blood and ink, you might need to employ a specialized stain remover. Various stain removers are available, so make sure you choose a product specifically designed to handle the type of stain you’re dealing with.

Remember to maintain your scrub’s color integrity even during this pre-treat stage. For color scrubs, stay clear of bleach-based stain removers. Instead, opt for color-safe bleaches or distilled white vinegar, which is known for its stain-lifting power while being gentle on colors.

When dealing with these types of stains, you’re helping to ensure that your scrubs are as clean as possible, which in turn helps maintain a professional appearance while at work. Practice patience during this process; it might take a moment or two, but the result of pristine, spotless scrubs is well worth the effort!

In the following section, you’ll discover how to wash your scrubs correctly to maintain their fresh, crisp appearance.

Wash with the right detergent

Now that you’ve pre-treated your stains, it’s time to consider the next crucial step: choosing the suitable detergent. Trust us, this is more complex than grabbing the first soap off the shelf. To maintain the quality of your medical scrubs, you need a gentle detergent that preserves the fabric but is powerful enough to remove contaminants. Let’s look at a few guidelines that can help.

When washing scrubs, your choice of detergent should always focus on the fabric’s needs. Some scrubs might require gentle, non-bleaching detergents, particularly if they are colored, as bleaching agents can make them fade. Consult the manufacturer’s care instructions if you need clarification.

Avoid using a heavy fabric softener for specialty medical scrubs that repel liquid or are antimicrobial. Fabric softeners can coat the textile, reducing its unique properties.

For heavily soiled scrubs, it can be beneficial to pre-soak them in a blend of water and detergent for about 30 minutes.

Remember to measure your detergent carefully. Too much can leave a residue on your scrubs, while too little will not clean thoroughly. Most detergent manufacturers provide measuring tools and instructions to help you use the right amount.

These guidelines ensure you wash your scrubs effectively and maintain quality and cleanliness. The journey does not end here. Once your scrubs are suitably cleaned, they’re ready for the next stage: drying. Following the correct drying procedures helps maintain their shape and longevity.

Use the correct water temperature

After you’ve pre-treated any stains and chosen your detergent, selecting the correct water temperature is important. When washing your scrubs, the water temperature can greatly impact the cleanliness and lifespan of your scrubs.

Hot, cold, or warm: what’s best for your scrubs? It’s not a guessing game. Your goal is to eliminate harmful pathogens without compromising the fabric quality, and knowing which water temperature to use can help you achieve that.

Hot Water

Hot water is a powerful ally in killing bacteria and other microorganisms. It’s your best option if your scrubs are heavily soiled or you’ve contracted infectious materials. However, remember that hot water can cause colors to fade and shrink some materials.

Warm Water

Warm water is a good middle ground. It effectively removes regular dirt, bodily fluids, and oils while being gentler on the fabric than hot water.

Cold Water

Cold water is the safest choice for brightly colored scrubs or those made of delicate fabrics. While it might not kill all bacteria, pre-treating and the right detergent should compensate for it.

Remember, your scrubs’ care label offers guidance on the highest recommended washing temperature, but it’s not always the best option for clinical hygiene.

Use the facts below for reference on which water temperature to choose based on different factors:

  • Heavily soiled or exposed to infectious materials: Hot Water
  • Regular dirt, oils, and bodily fluids: Warm Water
  • Bright colors or delicate fabrics: Cold Water

Proceeding cautiously with your water temperature will allow you to clean your scrubs effectively, preserve the fabric’s quality, and ensure longevity. With these guidelines, you’ll be well-equipped to keep your medical scrubs in top shape, wash after wash.

Dry your scrubs properly

After treating stains and selecting the apt washing conditions, i.e., getting the suitable detergent and water temperature, your focus naturally shifts to the next crucial step—drying your scrubs. Drying your scrubs is as essential a procedure as washing them. Even the most carefully cleaned scrubs may lose their quality if executed poorly.

The choice between air drying or using a dryer affects the longevity of your scrubs. Air drying is a gentle approach that protects the fabric from excessive heat and shrinkage. It’s slow but ideal for scrubs made from sensitive materials. Remember, always dry your scrubs out of direct sunlight. Intense sunlight can fade colors prematurely, reducing your work attire’s lifespan.

On the other hand, if time is of the essence, using a dryer could be your best bet. Most scrubs can be safely tumble-dried on low heat. Avoid high heat settings as they shrink the fabric and weaken the fibers over time. An additional tip here is sorting your laundry correctly. It prevents lighter items from being damaged by zips, buttons, or rough fabric of heavier items.

Let’s remember the creases. Taking care of creases right after drying is also crucial to maintain that professional appearance. The easiest way to get wrinkle-free scrubs is to remove and fold them promptly after the drying cycle. Hanging them straight can also do the trick.

The care you put into each step of your scrub maintenance process impacts their cleanliness, longevity, and appearance. While you’ve understood the effectiveness of various washing conditions, this guide has also given an insight into proper drying practices for medical scrubs. You’re on your way to ensuring your scrubs are always correctly maintained for the long term.


So, you’ve now got the lowdown on washing and drying your medical scrubs. It’s not just about cleanliness but also preserving the quality and longevity of your scrubs. Remember, the right detergent and water temperature are essential. But remember to consider the drying process. Whether air drying or using a machine, it’s all about protecting the fabric and color. And let’s remember the final touch – folding or hanging your scrubs promptly to keep them looking professional. By following these steps, you’re maintaining your scrubs and ensuring you always look the part. After all, your scrubs are an extension of your professional image. Happy washing!

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