Working with COVID-19 Patients: How to Decontaminate Your Scrubs and More

Women sitting next to a washing machine looking at a softener bottle.

These tips will give you ideas on how to decontaminate your scrubs properly.

If healthcare workers are on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic, their scrubs are their battle clothes. During pre-coronavirus times, worn scrubs were considered soiled and in need of a wash. Now, during the coronavirus pandemic, scrubs are still soiled, but may also carry this deadly virus.

Healthcare workers have to pay attention to what they bring home from their workplace. This not only includes scrubs but their shoes, lab coat, bags, etc. Figuring out how to come to and from home without carrying the virus can be tricky and tiring.

Check out these tips to learn how to decontaminate your scrubs

1. Only Bring The Essentials

Step number one – don’t bring anything to your workplace that is not essential. The more items you bring, the more items you have that can be contaminated. One of those essential items should be a spare of clean clothes wrapped tightly in a bag. Why? Keep reading to find out.

2. Bring Separate Clothes and Shoes

You just finished working with patients who may or may not be positive for COVID-19. Your work uniform and shoes possibly have saliva, sweat, and other bodily fluids on them. Instead of wearing those scrubs out of the hospital and exposing the virus to others, switch out of your scrubs into a pair of clean clothes.

Some healthcare workers will bring their work shoes home while others will just leave their workshops under their desk or somewhere safe. Your worn clothes and/or shoes can then be placed in the bag, sealed, and ready to be washed. More information on washing your scrubs down below.

3. Can’t Switch into Clean Clothes? Read This.

Perhaps you aren’t able to switch into clean clothes before coming home. The next best thing you can do is have a plan to remove your scrubs and shoes before you fully enter your home. What is your home set up like? Can you walk in and take off your clothes right away? If yes, consider leaving a bag near the door every morning.

That way, when you come home, you can remove your clothes once you enter and put them inside of the bag. Do you have a patio or garage? Maybe you can leave your workshops outside far away from the entrance or foot traffic. Spend some time figuring out what is the best set up for you and create a plan. Make sure to share this plan with your loved ones so they know what to expect when you come home.

4. Time to Scrub Your Scrubs

The safest way to ensure your scrubs are clean is to wash them right after taking them off. Here are some essential tips:

  1. Bring your scrubs or uniform to the washer in a bag that can be thrown away or washed with your work clothes.
  2. Do NOT wash your non-work clothes with your work uniform!
  3. Insert your clothes (and the laundry bag it was it can be washed) quickly into the machine in order to minimize having the clothes come into contact with your body.
  4. Add soap as usual.
  5. The World Health Organization has recommended washing clothes in hot water at a temperature of 140-190 degrees Fahrenheit. Adjust your water temperature as necessary.
  6. Store the bag that was holding your work clothes somewhere safe that won’t be in contact with anyone else (ex: in a ziplock bag or another bag that can be sealed).
  7. Wash your hands regardless if you wore gloves.
  8. Wipe down any surfaces you have touched up until this point.
  9. When clothes are washed, place them in a dryer and set the temperature to “medium” or “high.” The higher the temperature, the better, however, review your scrub’s drying directions prior to setting the temperature.
  10. Remove your dried clothes and place them in a clean bag.

If you’re washing and drying your clothes outside of your home or in a community laundromat, follow the same steps above. However, be considerate of social distancing by keeping 6 feet away from others. You can learn more information about keeping your household cleaning from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here.

The amount of mental energy it takes for healthcare workers to plan out their day during this pandemic cannot be estimated. It is a lot of work to ensure that the virus is being contained. Practicing these steps can give you an ease of mind and may keep your community and loved ones safe.

We would love to hear from you – please comment below if you have any tips for decontaminate your scrubs that have been helping you keep your clothes and home clean during these trying times.

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About the author

Kristie Cabrera

Kristie is an occupational therapist, mental health advocate, and amateur urban farmer. Her experience with taking care of others in the healthcare setting and taking care of the land are both important pieces that make up who she is. As a life-long learner and creative, she hopes to create content that is centered around wellness and healing.

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