Skin Irritation in Hospital Scrubs

Q: A few people wearing hospital scrubs that I have been processing complained about skin irritations. I have modified my laundry formula to reduce alkali and bleach but they are still breaking out in rashes. What is causing this? 

A: Some materials may contain residual or free formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a finish applied to cellulose fabrics to render permanent press or minimum care performance characteristics. Formaldehyde has always been known as an unpleasant and irritating chemical, which can cause not only dermatitis, but also breathing discomfort and irritation of nasal tissues.

Formaldehyde can cause reactions during wear, especially in the presence of body heat and perspiration. The level of skin irritation depends on the person’s sensitivity and also on the level of free formaldehyde. Some people react to even low levels of free formaldehyde; others do not.

Suggested Reading

For more information DLI Standard, Gold, and Premier members may see these and many more bulletins on DLI's Encyclopedia of Drycleaning Online. Upgrade or join today for access:

  • OSHA No. 4: Bloodborne Pathogens
  • Shirt & Laundry Procedures No. 22: Medical Stains