Ever wondered, what is the best material for scrubs in hot weather and in cold weather? Should the medical industry use 100% cotton scrubs? Which fabric would be safe?
With all the different blends of fabrics out in the market it is difficult to figure out which fabric should be used for medical scrubs.
Medical scrubs and surgical gowns need different levels of protection depending on the risks of the surgery. There are high-barrier (and often reusable) gowns, which are best for high-risk surgeries. However, for lower-risk surgeries, scrub suits made of a disposable, low-barrier material will be perfect.
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Here are four main types of fabrics which are used for scrubs:
Each fabric has its own unique properties.
It is seen that scrubs brands usually blend two or more of these fabrics to achieve the blend they want to use (example: high comfort and durability at a low price point, or a more premium ‘athleticwear’ feel). The blend of fabrics affects the scrub’s comfort, durability, and ease of maintenance.
Here are the pros, cons and details of the properties of materials used for medical scrubs:
Cotton has been a popular choice for decades as it is soft, breathable, long-lasting, and resists static electricity. This natural fabric is not usually wrinkle-resistant, but it can be treated to prevent wrinkles.
Pro: Cotton is biodegradable — though it’s one of the most environmentally-demanding crops because of the amount of water and pesticides it takes.
Con: Cotton garments are prone to shrinking. Although it is possible to avoid this through ‘pre-shrinking’ the clothing. However, this doesn’t mean there will be zero shrinkage afterwards. If exposed to a high-temperature wash, 100% cotton scrubs may end up shrinking.
Cotton is a great material for summer, but it is not great at moisture-wicking. Therefore, manufacturers blend cotton with polyester to make it a moisture-wicking fabric
Polyester is a synthetic material. It is durable, wrinkle-resistant, moisture-wicking, and easy to care for. Polyester fabrics are not absorbent or prone to shrinking. And they are a type of plastic.
Pro: Polyester fabric is good at resisting stains and dries up quickly. Polyester is cheaper than 100% cotton because of their lower cost of processing.
Con: Polyester tends to retain odors and its breathability depends on the yarn size and type of weave. If you’ve got a static buildup problem, check whether your clothes have a high polyester content. Polyester fabrics are the most likely culprits for attracting static electricity.
Rayon is made from regenerated cellulose (i.e., wood pulp). It is a soft, lightweight, and absorbent fabric that has a lot in common with cotton.
Pro: Rayon is a cooling fabric because of its thin fibers and has good breathability. Its quick-drying nature also makes it a popular choice in dry heat climates. Rayon is wrinkle-resistant and smooth to touch
Con: Rayon does not do as well in humid environments because it doesn’t wick moisture away as well as other natural fabrics like bamboo. Like cotton, it’s prone to shrinkage, so rayon fabrics are best washed cold and hung dry.
Spandex is a synthetic fabric and a popular choice of material to add stretchability to scrubs. It is strong, lightweight, and can be stretched over 100% without losing its shape.
Pro: A little spandex goes a long way. Scrubs with 3-4% spandex or elastane content can stretch up to four ways. This adds to the scrub’s overall flexibility and comfort.
Con: Spandex is not wrinkle-resistant, but can be blended with other fabrics. Also, spandex-heavy fabrics aren’t very breathable, so they’re not great for hot weather.
Here is what we recommend according to the seasons:
Best Scrub Fabric for Summer / Hot, Dry Weather: Polyester-rayon, polyester-viscose, or polyester-cotton blends. These have good breathability and have moisture-wicking properties. Choose a lightweight, flowy material with a bit of spandex to help with flexibility and stretchiness.
Best Scrub Fabric for Humid Climates: Polyester-cotton blends. This type of fabric strikes the best balance between breathability and moisture-wicking. Choose a lightweight (thinner) fabric with a bit of spandex for comfort and freedom of movement.
Best Scrub Fabric for Winter / Cold, Dry Weather: A heavier-weight, cotton-based fabric with minimal polyester content (preferably <20%). This will help keep you warm and will not attract static electricity.
Best Scrub Fabric for Surgeries: Disposable surgical scrubs. Surgical scrubs material tends to be made with much lighter weight cotton-polyester blend and are meant for a single use only.
Best Scrub Fabric for Protection Against Fluids / Chemicals: Go with a heavyweight fabric with high polyester content for better protection and stain resistance.
Now you are all ready to pick up the right fabric for the scrubs.