Rita Kay Calhoun asked:
But where are these lab coats being washed? I wouldn’t want to use a machine someone had just used to wash a lab coat. Not all “contaminations” are big enough to be apparent to others, and a student or TA is very likely to opt for washing rather than buying a new coat for “small splashes”. Doesn’t the possibility of contamination of public laundry facilities worry you?
This is a good question. If anyone out there has a good solution, please let us all know. Our new campus lab coat program (for research labs) will have a laundry/replacement component, but we have not been able to do so.
In our lab safety workshop, I ask students to consider whether including a lab coat in their general laundry is ‘prudent.’ Having been prompted to think it through, the ‘yuck’ reaction rises fast. I then suggest 1) trashing really dirty/damaged coats; 2) pre-rinsing before washing; and 3) a dedicated wash of lab coats pooled among classmates. I personally choose the pre-rinse option for my own coats and lab towels. (I don’t like what the rental laundry does to my coats.)
Balancing the question of laundry vs. students without coats (i.e., walking out of lab with contaminated street clothing), I think I’ll take some uncertainty about laundry, until we figure this out.
Another question: what contamination might remain in a home or commercial washer, considering the dilution factors? Are there substances likely to appear in Teaching Labs that you’d never put into your washer?
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