Why Healthcare Workers Shouldn’t Wear Their Scrubs Home

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly opened our eyes to how quickly infectious disease can spread. It has also made us more aware of certain practices that can aid in the spread of germs. Take hospital scrubs, for example. There is suddenly a new awareness of the idea that healthcare workers should not wear their uniforms home.

According to Textile Rental Association CEO Joseph Ricci, a number of studies published in recent years have proven just how easily healthcare worker uniforms are soiled. Simply put, hospital scrubs and lab coats are regularly soiled during a routine day's work. Yet despite the studies, we have not seen system-wide behavioral changes or policies that require soiled scrubs stay at the healthcare facility.

Taking Germs Home

The concerns over healthcare workers wearing their uniforms to and from work are twofold. First is the very real risk of taking germs home. Common sense seems to suggest that doing so is inevitable. A soiled uniform worn home takes the germs it is soiled with along for the ride.

Not only does this put family members at risk, but it also poses some risk to the general public. A healthcare worker who rides public transportation or stops at the store on the way home risks carrying the germs through public spaces. If we have learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is just how problematic this sort of thing is.

Hand-in-hand with carrying germs home is bringing other germs into the workplace. A TRSA survey suggests that this is a real concern among healthcare facilities. Some 79% say that wearing scrubs from the outside, into a hospital presents infection or contamination risk to patients.

Ineffective Home Laundering

The other concern is one of home laundering. Ricci says that Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) guidelines indicate that hospital scrubs and other such healthcare apparel should only be laundered in accredited laundry facilities. The guidelines also say that uniforms should be laundered after each daily use.

There is concern – and studies have demonstrated – that residential washing machines are ineffective at killing several types of pathogens. At issue is the temperature of the water used in the laundering process. Residential washing machines simply do not get hot enough.

Professional Laundering is the Solution

We know that hospital scrubs and lab coats get soiled on the job. We also know that soiled hospital uniforms become vehicles of transport for germs and pathogens. So, what do we do about it? The solution is professional laundering via TRSA and Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC) certified laundries.

Certified laundering facilities are capable of producing hygienically clean healthcare uniforms on a consistent basis. A hygienically clean uniform is delivered free of germs and pathogens thanks to highly specialized laundering and finishing processes.

Professional laundering answers both of the concerns that come with wearing hospital scrubs outside of work. First, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals leave their soiled scrubs at work and change into street clothes for the ride home. Soiled uniforms are then picked up by fully trained route sales representatives and taken to a certified facility for laundering. Thus, no germs are carried home or into other public spaces.

Having healthcare uniforms professionally laundered by certified facilities also guarantees that they are returned free of contaminants. Clean uniforms come into the hospital, reducing the chances of workers bringing germs with them at the start of their shifts.

We all know just how easily infectious disease spreads. Perhaps it's time for a greater emphasis on keeping healthcare uniforms at work. Reduce the risk of spreading germs on scrubs and lab coats by having them professionally laundered.

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