Here’s a scary bit of research.
In a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, the authors raise concern with a cost-saving measure that some hospitals have instituted — allowing personnel to launder uniforms, lab coats and operating room scrubs at home. Home-laundered scrubs were found to harbor significantly higher counts of bacteria than scrubs laundered in hospitals.
The reality is many nurses wear their scrubs in and out of work for necessity’s sake. Hospitals don’t provide all employees with institutional scrubs or even a place to change from street clothes into uniform. And community health professionals, an ever-increasing specialty, have no choice but to travel from home to home in their attire.
Still, the fact that some facilities are sending surgical attire home for their employees to do their own laundering does come as a surprise. Particularly with many professional organizations, including the AORN, taking a firm stance against the practice.
If wearing institutionally provided and laundered scrubs is an option, that’s your best bet in the fight against contamination. But if you do launder your scrubs at home, here are some tips for getting them as clean as possible.
The CDC recommends the following guidelinesfor optimal laundering:
- Contaminated scrubs should be washed in water >160 degrees for a minimum of 25 minutes (tough to achieve with the average washing machine).
- Chlorine bleach should be used and is activated between 135 and 145 degrees.
- Detergents will help suspend soils and “exhibit some microbiocidal properties.”
- Chlorine alternatives may be effective as an antimicrobial agent, but studies are needed to determine efficacy as compared to chlorine bleach.
- Temperatures reached in the dryer have additional antimicrobial effects.