Lab Coat Laundering Procedures


Dedicated containers should be used to transport coats to and from laundry facilities. Note that there should be separate bins for dirty and clean lab coats. To avoid cross contamination, use the “Dirty” bin only for dirty lab coats, and “Clean” bin only for clean lab coats. These bins must be sealed during transport. Transfer dirty lab coats to the “Dirty” bin in your lab, and always check the pockets of lab coats before placing in the bin.


Handle dirty lab coats with appropriate caution: Lab coats should be transferred to the “Dirty” bin and from the bin to the washing machine one-at-a time (Never transfer an armload of dirty lab coats). Gloves used to handle dirty/contaminated lab coats must not be used to handle cleaned or decontaminated lab coats.

Articles Approved for Laundering

Laboratory Coats

Lab coats with significant contamination of any hazardous substance must be discarded according to hazardous waste disposal procedures and MUST NOT be laundered: DO NOT PUT YOUR CO-WORKERS AT RISK! It is the responsibility of every worker to know and understand the hazards associated with their tasks.

For further information, see the “Contaminated Laboratory Coats” section below.

Surgical Scrubs

Scrubs are an alternative to street clothing, and are not to be considered protective equipment. If laundering scrubs in the laundry facility, it is recommended that you run the washing machine empty with bleach first.

NOTE: Scrubs used as a substitute for a smock in animal facilities should not leave the animal facility.

Laboratory Coat Use Guideline

To reduce the potential for multiple classes of contamination, lab coats should not be used for both chemical and biological work. In addition, each lab should maintain an adequate excess of lab coats to ensure availability during laundering operations.

Laboratory Coat Laundering Guidlines

To ensure cleanliness and reduce the risk of contaminant transmission, laboratory coats must be laundered on a regular basis. The minimum recommended washing frequency for lab coats used in low-risk activities is once a year. More frequent washing are necessary depending on the risk of exposure to hazardous agents in the laboratory. For Biosafety Level 2, intervals between washing should not exceed one month. Lab coats must NOT be taken home.

NOTE: While lab coats may be laundered off-site by a contractor, it is the responsibility of the Primary Investigator to perform a risk assessment and establish a contract in which it is clearly stated that there is a possibility of contamination with hazardous materials.

Contaminated Laboratory Coats

Chemical Contamination

If a substantial chemical spill occurs on lab coat, or if the spilled material is highly toxic, corrosive, persistent (non-evaporating) the lab coat must be discarded according to hazardous waste disposal procedures and must not be washed. This includes:

  • Lab coats contaminated with volatile carcinogens, teratogens, or toxic materials with an LD50<50mg/kg
  • Lab coats which smell of chemicals, or contaminated with materials that pass through Nitrile gloves (e.g. organometallics like methyl mercury), or contaminated with large amounts (greater than a loonie in area) of concentrated acids or other corrosives
  • Lab coats still wet with contaminants

Biological Contamination

  1. Where a known or suspected contamination/spill from ANY biological agent occurs (regardless of Risk Group Assessment Level), any contaminated clothing and the lab coat must be decontaminated with an effective decontaminant before laundering.
  2. Do not autoclave biologically contaminated lab coats that are additionally contaminated with chemical or radioactive material.

Radioactive Contamination

If a spill on the lab coat involves radioactive material, inform the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) immediately, put the lab coat in a sealed bag a give it to the RSO directly.