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Nursing Scrubs: The Material Makes A Difference

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Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 14 years experience.

Nursing scrubs and other types of uniforms designed for healthcare workers are made using different materials. The intended purpose of this article is to discuss how the different types of fabrics make a difference depending on the needs and desires of the wearer.

Nursing Scrubs: The Material Makes A Difference

The vast majority of nursing scrubs are made using blends of polyester and cotton, although some uniforms are 100 percent cotton and others are constructed with 100 percent polyester material. A small number of scrubs are made using blends of other synthetic fabrics such as rayon and spandex.

Depending on the specific needs and desires of the person who wears the scrubs, the material used to construct them most certainly makes a difference. Above all else, it is important that all nursing scrubs are made to be sturdy enough to endure many wearings, resist different bodily fluids, and stand up to multiple washings.

Most scrubs sold in stores and online are made with fabric that consists of a polyester and cotton mixture. Uniforms that are made of polyester and cotton are beneficial because they tend to be affordable, dry very quickly in clothes dryers, resist wrinkling, and offer hassle-free care. However, nurses who choose to iron scrubs comprised of this blend of fabrics are strongly advised to use low to moderate heat because high heat might lead to scorching and possible melting as a result of the synthetic polyester components. Popular mixtures include 55 percent polyester blended with 45 percent cotton, and 65 percent polyester blended with 35 percent cotton.

Many scrubs are constructed with 100 percent cotton fabric. All-cotton uniforms offer benefits that include unsurpassed softness, durability, and virtually no chance of 'seeing through' the clothing articles to reveal embarrassing underwear lines. Keep in mind that 100 percent cotton scrubs may take a little longer to dry, are more prone to wrinkle, and generally cost more than polyester blends.

Some scrubs are made using 100 percent polyester material. Polyester work clothes are desirable due to their low cost, ability to stretch, resistance to wrinkles after laundering, tendency to rapidly dry, and overall low maintenance. Nurses who prefer to iron polyester scrubs must use low heat at all times because moderate to high heat settings can scorch and melt this synthetic material.

A handful of newer medical uniforms have incorporated synthetic blends that include spandex and rayon. Cotton/spandex blends are excellent for the wearer who needs some stretch, whereas polyester/rayon mixtures are ideal for strength and cost effectiveness.

The nurse or other type of healthcare worker who wants to purchase medical scrubs has multiple choices in fabric blends, colors, designs, and cuts. The material used to construct the uniform should be carefully considered prior to making any purchases. Happy shopping!

TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a Registered Nurse.

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29 Comment(s)

adnrnstudent, ASN, RN

Has 5 years experience.

Quality of stitching matters too. In the past, Dickies would fall apart and all I'll wear now is Cherokee. (Dickies may have improved since I last bought them, not trying to kill a brand that may have got better.)

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 14 years experience.

Quality of stitching matters too. In the past, Dickies would fall apart and all I'll wear now is Cherokee. (Dickies may have improved since I last bought them, not trying to kill a brand that may have got better.)
I have several top and scrub bottoms made by Cherokee that I purchased back in 2006. They still have not faded or developed any holes after all these years, so I'll give a firsthand testimonial to their quality. :)

DutchRN09

Specializes in Ambulatory Surgery, PACU,SICU.

I just bought some scrubs made by Dansko, (on zappos) and they are great. No wrinkles.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 14 years experience.

I just bought some scrubs made by Dansko, (on zappos) and they are great. No wrinkles.
Many healthcare workers also swear by the quality and comfort of Dansko shoes, especially the clogs. They're a bit pricey, but worth it to many people.

I wonder about the tightness of the weave required in the OR. Do we need to adhere to that on the floor?

tothepointeLVN, LVN

Specializes in Hospice / Ambulatory Clinic. Has 3 years experience.

Love my Koi pants. Though I am also partial to some scrub pants I get at Walmart for about $12 Scrubs and Beyond maybe? Not so picky about tops as long as they are cute and cover my midback.

nursefrances, BSN, RN

Specializes in Ambulatory Surgery, Ophthalmology, Tele. Has 6 years experience.

I forgot walmart sells scrubs. I needed solid navy and wine colored sets for my new job. I tried cherokee work wear core stretch. These are soft and cozy and have a nice feminine fit. I have petite shoulders and most tops are too big for me. These fit just right. And there is still some room in the pants for those of us with thighs and a little junk in the trunk. ;)

Edited by nursefrances
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proud nurse, BSN, RN

Specializes in Medical Oncology, Alzheimer/dementia. Has 15 years experience.

I think I'm addicted to scrub shopping. My favorite are the Cherokee flare leg pants with half elastic in the back with a drawstring.

This is helpful nursefrances, I an a new lpn student and I have spent hours and hours trying on scrubs. I ordered some online which stated they ran large and the top fit fine, but I couldn't get the bottoms over my rump and hips. I didn't know they even made stretch scrubs. Thank you, I will be on the hunt for those.:yeah:

GitanoRN, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in Trauma, ER, ICU, CCU, PACU, GI, Cardiology, OR. Has 52 years experience.

I bought a set of MED-GEAR scrubs that I haven't been able to find since, they were made with 100% Polyester Quick-dry mesh fabric for moisture and free of wrinkles, every time I wear them I get a compliment. Having said that, not only they are comfortable they are stylish as well, the ones I bought are all black with 2 white stripes on the shoulders on the top the pants are solid black, I'm in the look out for these scrubs th_smiley-65.gif ...Aloha~

I love my Iguana Med scrubs! they look great and are super comfy!

Those Walmart scrubs aren't bad.

I actually really really like their pants with side-pockets. They are a good cut for me and comfy.

The fabric is decent: it's durable and softens over washes... though I like to do a little starch if they get too soft, so they don't get sloppy.

Some of the cuts for the tops are kinda cute, though the fabric patterns can be kinda tacky (though I did indulge in a particularly nasty pattern to be funny... hey, I'm easily amused).

They are affordable and that's good because I've always been a uniform junky.

Speaking of polyester scrubs, my school scrub top and lab coat were the nastiest fabric. They were hot and kinda scratchy.

I hated them so much, I had a bonfire and burned them.

Those suckers melted before they really burned.

So, oh goody... if there had been a fire, I could have looked forward to my uniform melting to my body, on top of everything else :no:

redhead_NURSE98!, ADN, BSN

Specializes in Med/surg, Quality & Risk. Has 9 years experience.

I think I'm addicted to scrub shopping. My favorite are the Cherokee flare leg pants with half elastic in the back with a drawstring.

Yes!! I almost have the item # memorized lol. I hate all drawstrings because they either fall off because they're too loose, or you tie them tight and can't get your finger under the tie to get them off to go to the bathroom!!!

I also like Grey's Anatomy tops and the material they're made out of. More pricey than most Cherokee though.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 14 years experience.

I also like Grey's Anatomy tops and the material they're made out of. More pricey than most Cherokee though.
Grey's Anatomy uniforms are really stylish and professional-looking, but I cannot fathom paying $24 per scrub top and $24 per scrub bottom. I suppose that people must may a premium if they really want to own what is considered a designer brand of uniforms.

tothepointeLVN, LVN

Specializes in Hospice / Ambulatory Clinic. Has 3 years experience.

The Grey's Anatomy scrubs are no friend to the round the fabric is soft but thin which is why I like the Koi brand pants because is a soft but sturdy cotton twill fabric the colors are awesome lots of pocket if your in to that thing and for me the best part is that a "clean" pair can double for street wear when your lazy.

I used to love Dickies Sandwashed but I guess they discontinued those when another company took over the licenscing contract. Loved the New Dimension stretch scrubs but those were discontinued too.

For me spending $25-$30 on a scrub top or bottom isn't that bad since I don't buy that many esp compared to working somewhere else where you can't repeat the same outfit within 2-3 weeks.

Sales are awesome though.

I loooooove Dickies Youtility line. There are so many pockets, and they are so comfortable. I prefer the men's pants because the pockets are aligned a bit differently than the women's, and the elastic is more like real elastic (they both have drawstring, as well). The tops have a breast pocket, as well as two on the bottom, which I can't find in many other brands. I only own a few sets, so they get washed and abused a lot, and they hold up really well. They aren't cheap, but I just stalk when they go on sale, as well as use free shipping coupons, and they aren't too bad.