Whoever decided that doctors should wear white coats must not have spent much time with sick patients. Throughout your career, your white medical coat will encounter some nasty stains, from blood and coffee to C-diff. To keep your white coat looking good, you will need to employ several techniques for cleaning your white coat. This how-to guide provides multiple options for removing common unsightly and unsanitary stains from your medical jacket.
- Basic Cleaning
The first step in keeping a clean coat is to make sure the coat is being washed regularly. Don’t make this a once-a-month effort. Stains will come out more easily if you wash them sooner. Always check the pockets of the coat for pens, paper, and tissues before washing it. Wash your white coat often, with like colors (or by itself if it is very soiled). Start with warm water and use a laundry soap that has enzymes and optical brighteners: Tide or Gain, for example. Adding a booster such as OxiClean or borax to the wash helps to prevent it from getting dingy. It is a good idea to iron your coat after every wash, even if you remove it, still warm from the dryer. If you are in veterinary medicine or have pets, you may like to keep several lint rollers around for the animal fur and dander. If your medical practice involves human patients, it is best to keep that coat away from your pets, as some people are allergic. Keeping a lint roller in your car is a good rule of thumb. And finally, store and transport your coat hanging up.
- Blood Stains
Blood, a fairly obvious and offensive stain on a white coat, usually does come out. The first-line treatment is hydrogen peroxide. Blot some hydrogen peroxide on the bloodstain with some gauze as soon as possible (using gloves). Perhaps you didn’t notice the blood for several hours—that’s ok. Hydrogen peroxide (found in the pharmacy section of most stores) is still recommended first. Then wash your coat in COLD water with laundry soap. The stain should be gone. If it is not, soak it overnight in COLD water with a half scoop of OxiClean powder dissolved in the water and then wash it the next day.
- Coffee Stains
Perhaps coffee is really the most common stain. Put cold water on the stain as soon as you notice it. Spray some stain remover spray (such as Shout or Resolve) on it when you get home, and wash it right away if the stain is from the same day. If it is an ancient coffee stain, see the “re-boot my coat” category.
- Food Stains
Owning a stain remover pen such as Tide-To-Go is a great solution for food stains. Use the stain remover right away if you have it; otherwise, some water and a paper towel in the bathroom can help keep the stain from setting in. As soon as possible, spray the coat with stain remover spray and soak it overnight in cold water with a dissolved wash booster (OxiClean works well). Do a normal wash cycle the following day. Do not let your coat sit soaking for more than a day, or it may start to smell.
- Ink Stains
Ink can be difficult to remove from clothing, but it will often come out. Don’t put water on it or rub it. Leave the ink mark alone. Hairspray can dissolve the ink. Spray it generously on the ink mark, and DO NOT rub it in. Once sprayed, leave the coat to sit for at least an hour, then wash as normal. Check the coat after the wash cycle before putting it in the dryer to make sure the ink is gone. If it is not, repeat the hairspray step and wash again.
- Contagious Bodily Fluid Stains
Clostridium difficile, or C-diff, a contagious bacteria that can be transmitted hand to mouth, is used for this example of white coat treatment. Still, you can apply this treatment to varied scenarios such as staph, yeast, ringworm, etc. Bleach is needed for these types of exposures. Fill a bucket (or your washer if you have a soak setting) with hot water. Add ½ cup of bleach and let your coat soak for 30 minutes. Do not use expired bleach! In fact, it is best to use bleach purchased within the last 6 months for any sanitation purposes. Use a warm wash cycle with laundry detergent after the bleach soak.
- Reboot Your Coat
This step is for coats with very old stains or cases where other stain removal attempts have failed. Treat any visible stains with a stain remover first and let it soak in thoroughly. Then begin with an overnight soak in a small amount of warm water (just enough to cover the coat) and a generous scoop of a booster like OxiClean (seems to work best for this step). In the morning, take your coat and put it in a hot water bleach soak with ½ cup of bleach for 30 minutes. Finally, do a heavy-duty warm wash with only your coat and a generous portion of laundry soap.
Don’t let your coat start to look tired! The final and key step to keeping that white coat looking sharp is standing tall, shoulders back, smiling, and wearing it with pride.
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