Why Are Scrubs Usually Blue or Green?

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Medical professionals can choose from a wide variety of scrubs with different colors and patterns. So why are plain blue and green ones so popular?

It used to be that doctors, especially those performing surgeries, didn’t even wear special work garments and simply operated in their regular clothes and with bare hands. The 1918 flu pandemic and the rise of antiseptic theory led first to the use of surgical masks and rubber gloves and, eventually, antiseptic drapes, gowns and caps in the operating room.

Early OR garments were white, which emphasized cleanliness but led to eyestrain and headaches for surgeons and their staff. Sometime in the mid-20th century, hospitals began to ditch white linens and switched to various shades of green, which made things easier for both the institutions and their surgeons.

For the hospitals, doing laundry was less of a headache. Ever try to wash blood out of something white? At best, you’re left with a green/brown discoloration. While white linens had to be frequently tossed and replaced (either because the discoloration was too bad or because frequent washing and bleaching destroyed the fabric), green scrubs have a bit of a longer lifespan.

For surgeons, operating was less of a literal headache. Green and greenish-blue surgical linens make looking at the inside of a human body easier on the eyes, since they’re opposite red on the color wheel.

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October 4, 2010 - 9:18pm
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