To a nurse, scrubs aren’t just a uniform that you have to change into to identify your position in a health care system. In fact, they’re an outfit that has been designed to ensure better patient safety and care through proper nurse hygiene within the system. After the hands, it’s the clothes that one wears that can carry an entire army of germs and pathogens leading to medical nuisance.

Here are four essentials to ensure that your scrubs are clean and properly disinfected.

1. The first wash is vital.

Nursing scrubs undergo a significant amount of physical and chemical wear and tear throughout their life. Though they are designed to be disposed and replaced frequently, a bit of pre-treatment to preserve their life wouldn’t hurt.You might want to wash your scrubs in a bucket of luke warm water with a cup vinegar mixed in it before wearing them for the first time. The vinegar acts a color fixative preventing them from fading too soon and also enhances their durability against common medical disinfectants that can damage your scrubs on repeated use.

2. Wear your scrubs only when on call.

Wear your scrubs when you get to work and while performing work related tasks only. Germs don’t take a break and can move from your home or the streets to your workplace as well. Having clean scrubs is thus of utmost importance to ensure a clean and healthy working environment for yourself and for patients receiving medical care at your facility. To avoid infecting your scrubs with germs from outside, don’t change into them until you get to work. And when you’re doing off-shift stuff like lunching, you might want to change out of them again. It’s a bit tiring, but most sauces are harder to remove than blood anyway, so save yourselves from a bit of the extra trouble by avoiding meal spills.

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3. Follow the three-step cleaning process.

Washing scrubs employs three basic steps – stain removal, disinfection, and drying. To remove stains, first wash your scrubs in cold water with regular detergent. It’s best to set the load size to a maximum to allow your scrubs plenty of movement for a better wash. Once the cycle of regular washing is complete, remove them and check them for any remaining stains. If there is still some remaining, repeat the process; you would want to remove as many stains as possible before disinfecting as the hot water used while disinfecting will only make stains harder to remove.

After all stains have been successfully removed, begin disinfecting your scrubs by washing them in hot water with a hospital prescribed disinfecting agent or color-safe bleach. A good disinfectant should kill most if not all bacteria, viruses’ and pathogens that may have attached themselves to your scrubs while on duty. And if not, then drying your scrubs for half an hour on the highest heat setting would kill any left overs as most microorganisms responsible for contagious infections are sensitive to high temperatures.

4. Always have your scrubs looking good.

After the chemical wear and tear your scrubs receive during washing, it is very important to have them looking neat for a proper and professional appearance. Take out five minutes from your schedule to press them with a hot iron. Ironing your scrubs not only removes wrinkles, but also helps to kill even more pathogens that may have reappeared as a result of cross-contamination. It’s also best to pack them in an air-tight bag and keep them at your workplace till you need to wear them again.

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You should ideally be alternating between two sets of scrubs, but having more than two just makes each last longer.

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