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Lab coat Q&A: Will it all come out in the wash?

The answer to the following is adapted from the Complete Guide to Laboratory Safety, Third Edition, by Terry Jo Gile. To purchase this book, click here. [1]

Q: I am a dentist and currently use a lab coat laundry service.  The cost (for about 8 coats per week), however, is quite high. I would like to consider doing it myself at home.   Assuming that I am washing them separately, using hot water, bleach, etc., is there an OSHA guideline that prohibits this?

A: OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standard does NOT allow laundering of any PPE exposed to blood and body fluids at home.  You must either use an outside service or install an washer and dryer on the premises that ensures a water temperature of 160 degrees for the wash cycle and 120 degrees for the rinse cycle for proper sanitation.

Instruct staff to remove contaminated lab coats and other reusable items as soon as possible after leaving the work area, and place them in appropriate laundry bags that prevent leakage.