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When was the last time your lab coat was washed? Never?! Most lab coats should be washed regularly to remove chemical and biological residue that could harm you or contaminate your experiments (which is the worst!).
If you’re used to throwing all of your laundry in a single load on hot, don’t do that here! You can ruin a great lab coat by washing it the wrong way. Bleach is incompatible with Nomex® and Fire Resistant lab coats. Some embroidery can curl up or lose color depending on the thread used and the wash temperature.
A weekly wash schedule is recommended if you use your lab coat several hours a day around contaminants. Wash at least monthly for less regular use. Always wash or discard lab coats immediately after significant spills.
If your institution does not have professional laundering available, lab coats should be double-bagged for home transportation and cleaned separately from normal clothes. Never home-wash lab coats that could have contamination from carcinogens, biologically-harmful chemicals, dangerous pathogens, corrosive chemicals or anything that should not end up in the water table.
Generally, you should never wash your lab coat yourself unless it has only been exposed to normal dirt, dust and sweat. Chemicals on your lab coat can end up in the water supply and harm aquatic species if this is done improperly.
Unbutton all buttons, but zip all zippers before washing. Empty pockets!
Check your lab coat tag and the manufacturer’s website for washing recommendations.
The hottest water setting is often necessary for good cleaning, but can also ruin some lab coat materials.
Never use bleach on lab coats unless the tag specifically says it’s OK. Bleaching an FR lab coat could reduce the fire resistance and allow burns when you think you’re protected.
Dry according to the directions on the tag.
Run the machine empty with bleach on hot to disinfect and clean the washing machine of any residual contaminants.
If a significant chemical spill occurs on clothes, or if the spilled substance is particularly toxic, corrosive, or persistent (non-evaporating), the lab coat must be disposed of according to hazardous waste disposal standards and will not be accepted for washing.
Contaminated lab coats should be thrown away and should not be washed if they have been contaminated by:
A coat can be professionally washed and reused if the spill does not meet any of the above conditions.
Getting rid of biological contamination is different from chemicals. You may need to autoclave the lab coat before handing it over for washing.
If a spill on the lab coat contains radioactive material, immediately notify EHS and/or Facilities Management. The lab coat will be sealed and disposed of as radioactive waste in a sealed bag.
Columbia University Lab Coat information table
Virginia Tech PPE Use Guidelines
Guidelines for Selection, Use, and Care of Laboratory Coats (Univ. of Akron)
In scientific research, you should normally have a professional service contracted with your institution to handle the washing. Lab coats should only be washed at home if they've only been exposed to normal dirt, dust and sweat.
Embroidery isn't necessarily the same material as the lab coat, especially if it was added after you bought the lab coat. Polyester and cotton embroidery thread hold up well under high temps, but bleach should be avoided. Silk, wool, or rayon embroidery should only be hand washed. Dry at the lowest temperature possible.
Only white polyester-cotton blends or white 100% cotton can be bleached. Never bleach FR-treated cotton or Nomex lab coats. For other fabrics, follow the instructions on the tag. Washing instructions vary by field of work, described in this post.
Yes, lab coats are always washed in machines and tumble dried. But you should never home-wash lab coats exposed to any chemicals or biological pathogens. Use a contracted professional laundering service certified to handle contaminated lab coats with your institution.
It depends on the fabric, but most common poly-cotton blends can be autoclaved. Check the tag or the manufacturer's website to be sure! Make sure to use a clear bag so they don't get throw out as disposable waste.
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