How to Remove Tough Stains from Scrubs

Do you ever arrive home from the hospital or your clincals only to notice a drop of iodine on your once pristine kicks or a spatter of blood on your lab coat? Not to mention, the pen that perpetually leaks in the pocket of your scrub pants… Life as a nurse practitioner can be quite messy and many of us aren’t fortunate enough to have hospital laundry services clean our work wear. Here are a few tips and tricks for dealing with tough hospital acquired stains. Clean at your own risk.

Iodine Stains

If you’ve ever opened a bottle of iodine too quickly, you’ve experienced the sinking feeling you get when that dark brown splotch starts spreading across your pant leg. There’s no disguising that stain. But, there is a way to remove it.

  1. Blot up as much of the stain as possible. Never use bleach on an iodine stain as it will set the stain
  2. Flush under cold, running water
  3. Mix a little detergent with water. Rub the stain from the inside of the fabric to loosen
  4. Wash the clothing as you normally would in the washer with detergent in cold water

Blood Stains

You’ll of course want to take proper precautions when you notice blood on your clothing. Clothing that is too soiled may do best to hit the biohazard bin. I’ve come home from the emergency department a time or two in a not-so-flattering pair of disposable scrub bottoms. But, if you’re cleaning up a small blood stain and are wearing the proper PPE to do so, here’s how to rescue shoes, scrubs, and lab coats from hemoglobin.

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  1. Blot to remove as much of the blood as possible. Do not scrub. Hemoglobin in blood acts as a binder and will cling more tightly to clothing fibers if you scrub. Your goal is to lift the stain from the fabric
  2. Soak the fabric in cold water immediately
  3. Meanwhile, make a solution of 1 cup salt and 2 quarts water. Place the clothing into the solution and let soak for 30 minutes. Baking soda or meat tenderizer may also be used in the solution.
  4. If the stain persists, rub with a bar of soap then rub the fabric together with your hands to loosen the stain
  5. If the stain is still visible, dab hydrogen peroxide on the fabric and rinse. Note that hydrogen peroxide can act as a bleach wearing down clothing fibers
  6. Once the stain has been removed to the best of your ability, air dry the clothing to make sure the stain is no longer visible. Once you put the clothing in the dryer it will be impossible to remove further
  7. If you are satisfied with the results, wash the entire garment in the washing machine with detergent and cold water

Ink Pen

Whether you drug you lab coat sleeve across an inky sheet of paper or experienced the ill-fated results of an ink pen leak in your pocket, these are difficult stains to remove. But, with the following steps you may be able to salvage your garb.

  1. Place a clean cloth or towel beneath the stained area-you don’t want the ink to seep onto other layers of fabric or other surfaces
  2. Apply glycerin to the stain with a cotton swab. Glycerin is available at most pharmacies. Gently run into the stain. If you can’t find glycerin, hairspray may do the trick
  3. Mix a small amount of laundry detergent and water in a bowl. Apply to fabric and gently rub in to lather
  4. Wash in the washing machine with detergent in cool water. Make sure the stain is gone before transferring to the dryer as heat will set the stain
  5. Soaking the affected garment overnight in milk may also be an effective solution for neutralizing ink stains


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