If you have a sensitive stomach, never engage fellow nurses on the topic of laundry. Even while a nurse is carefully following OSHA regulations to avoid bloodborne pathogens, clothes, shoes and even skin can experience serious stains. No one wears personal protective equipment to eat lasagna leftovers in the break room, for example, and if you've never had a patient vomit or urinate on some part of your uniform, are you even a nurse?
Happily, some hospitals provide uniforms or reimburse for laundry expenses. And you may be able to find a tax deduction that applies to your scrubs, even though no one can deduct uniforms or laundry as "miscellaneous itemized deductions" on a federal tax return anymore. Regardless, it still makes sense to learn how to fight scrub stains, to eke some more wear from your favorite or save money. It's always going to be less expensive to wash then toss, even if half your pants leg is covered in dirty diaper output.
In this battle, it's wise to follow the example of North Carolina correctional nurse John Martin, who always keeps an extra change of clothes in the car and several pairs of clean socks in his "survival kit." That way, you can change into clean clothing much more quickly and maybe even soak the stained garment in cold water, which lessens the chance that orange popsicle or similar stains will "set" before it reaches the wash. And speaking of survival kits, it's a good idea to include a stain-treatment pen in yours, so you can quickly dab the minor stains as you continue your rounds.
Later, when you (or your loving family member) get down to the business of doing laundry, follow these recommendations for busting the stains that just seem to find nurses on the job:
Feces. Apartment Therapy offered proof that nurses aren't the only ones who might end up with poop on their clothing items with its coverage on removing "poo" from items you'd like to wear again. The bottom line: Lay the stained items out in the sun, Cara of Better Than Laundry told AT.
Permanent marker. It may seem like you can never find a Sharpie when you need one, but permanent marker ink will appear on your scrubs nonetheless. According to Howstuffworks, run-of-the-mill rubbing alcohol is the solution. "Place the stain face down on top of some paper towels," it instructed. "Dip a cloth or sponge in rubbing alcohol and dab first around the stain, then directly on it. You should see the ink transfer to the paper towel underneath the stain. Change the paper towel often so that the paper can absorb the color. After the stain is removed, wash the clothing as directed in the washing machine."
Another possible antidote to permanent markers: Milk. "Simply place the garment in a bowl, fill it with enough milk to cover the stain and allow to soak overnight," Howstuffworks added. "Repeat as needed with fresh milk, then launder the stain-free garment as appropriate."
Iodine. It may seem like you're a magnetic force field for iodine spills or spatters. But they can be cleaned. Try soaking the clothing in warm water for 20 minutes with detergent and then washing with an oxygen-based bleach, Nurse.com recommended. Iodine is the rare exception to the "soak stains in cold water first" rule. Soak in warm water for 20 minutes with detergent, then wash, along with an oxygen-based bleach.
Blood. Ideally, you'll never get even a spatter of blood on your clothing. But if you do, soak the stained item ASAP in cold water. Follow that by "flushing as much of the blood as possible from the fabric fibers (use a steady stream of cold water through the fabric) and rub in a bit of heavy-duty laundry detergent such as Tide or Persil that contains the necessary enzymes to break apart the stain," advised the Spruce. "Let the detergent work for five or 10 minutes and then wash as usual."
Coffee. Hard to imagine anyone spilling even a drop of this magical nurse elixir, but it happens. According to doityourself, you can make coffee stains unhappen using this method: "Using a clean white cloth, blot the stain to remove any excess liquid. Coffee stain removal can also be done with a mixture of dishwashing liquid and luke warm water or with the use of 1/3 cup of white vinegar and 2/3 cups of lukewarm water. You can use either coffee stain removal solution and sponge gently to remove the stain."
Sweat. Never let them see you perspire? Sweat stains may yield to a mix of 1 tablespoon white vinegar and a half-cup of water sponged onto the affected area, according to Nurse.com.
Want a simpler solution? You can always outsource your laundry. Blusion Wash in Atlanta, for example, uses BluOx technology, tested on heavily soiled diaper pads in cold water, no less. They'll take on your laundry chores for you, at a price, and they also include the same hypoallergenic detergent in the cost of self-service washing.
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