Harmony Lab & Safety Supplies

Paper Scrubs vs. Traditional Scrubs: A Comparative Analysis for Modern Healthcare Practices

In the healthcare industry, using personal protective equipment (PPE) is crucial for maintaining a sterile environment and reducing the spread of infections.

One essential aspect of PPE is the type of scrubs worn by healthcare professionals.

In recent years, the debate between disposable paper scrubs and traditional washable scrubs has gained traction. This article aims to provide an in-depth analysis of both types of scrubs to help healthcare facilities make informed decisions.

Introduction to Scrubs in Healthcare

Scrubs are an essential part of the uniform for healthcare professionals, designed to provide a barrier between the wearer and their environment. They are typically made from durable, breathable materials that can withstand the rigors of the healthcare setting.

The primary functions of scrubs are to protect the wearer from potential contamination, protect patients from cross-contamination, and maintain a professional appearance.

There are two main types of scrubs: paper scrubs, also known as disposable scrubs and traditional washable scrubs.

Paper Scrubs: An Overview

Paper scrubs, or disposable scrubs, are single-use garments made from lightweight, non-woven materials. They are designed to be discarded after each use, eliminating the need for laundering. Paper scrubs have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their potential benefits in infection control and cost-effectiveness.

Traditional Scrubs: An Overview

Traditional scrubs are reusable garments made from woven cotton or polyester. They are designed to be worn multiple times, requiring regular laundering to maintain cleanliness. While traditional scrubs have been the standard choice for many healthcare facilities, the growing emphasis on infection control has reevaluated their effectiveness compared to disposable options.

Comparing Paper Scrubs and Traditional Scrubs

Infection Control

One of the primary goals of PPE in healthcare settings is to prevent the spread of infections. Studies have indicated that disposable paper scrubs may be more effective at reducing infection risk than traditional washable scrubs. The single-use nature of paper scrubs eliminates the potential for cross-contamination between patients and healthcare workers and the need for laundering, which can be a source of bacterial contamination.

A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that home-laundered traditional scrubs had significantly more bacteria on them compared to hospital-laundered scrubs and disposable paper scrubs. In cases where in-house or vendor laundering is not feasible, disposable scrubs may be the preferred option for infection control.

Reliability and Durability

Disposable paper scrubs are made from durable, non-woven materials that can withstand the challenges of healthcare settings. Unlike traditional scrubs, which can wear down over time due to repeated use and laundering, paper scrubs are not subject to the effects of reuse, transport, storage, laundering, and decontamination.

Additionally, disposable scrubs provided by healthcare facilities are less likely to be lost or damaged compared to traditional scrubs, which may be laundered at home or by a third-party service.


Although disposable paper scrubs may appear to be more expensive upfront, studies have shown that they can be cost-competitive with traditional scrubs. Two studies have found that disposable scrubs are less expensive when compared to reusable options when considering the costs of laundering and replacement.

Individual healthcare facilities should conduct cost analyses to determine the financial impact of using disposable versus traditional scrubs, taking into account factors such as laundry costs, replacement rates, and potential savings from reduced infection rates.

Comfort and Fit

Comfort is essential for healthcare professionals working long hours in demanding environments. Advances in textile technologies have made disposable paper scrubs more comfortable and breathable than ever before. Research has shown that the breathability and temperature regulation of disposable scrubs are comparable to traditional options, and personal preferences will ultimately determine which type of scrub is most comfortable for the wearer.

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of disposable paper scrubs versus traditional scrubs is an important consideration for healthcare facilities. While it is true that disposable scrubs generate more waste compared to reusable options, the overall effectiveness of disposable scrubs in preventing the transmission of pathogens must be weighed against their environmental footprint.

It is also worth noting that reducing healthcare-associated infections (HcAIs) through disposable scrubs could lead to long-term savings in medical costs, offsetting the initial investment in disposable PPE.

The Bottom Line: Which Type of Scrub is Best for Healthcare Facilities?

Healthcare facilities must prioritize infection control to protect patients, healthcare workers, and the community at large. While traditional washable scrubs may have a smaller environmental and economic impact than disposable paper scrubs, the effectiveness of disposable scrubs in preventing the spread of infections should not be overlooked.

Choosing the most appropriate type of scrub for a healthcare facility will depend on factors such as cost, infection control policies, laundry capabilities, and employee preferences. Ultimately, the goal should be to create a safe and effective working environment that minimizes the risk of infection for all involved.

The Impact of Suits vs. Scrubs Culture in Healthcare Management

In addition to the debate between disposable and traditional scrubs, healthcare facilities must contend with the growing divide between management and clinical staff, often called the “suits versus scrubs” culture. As healthcare systems become increasingly corporate and large-scale, this divide can lead to a toxic workplace environment characterized by divisiveness and mistrust.

Research has shown that senior management in many healthcare facilities is increasingly dominated by individuals from business and finance backgrounds, with minimal representation from clinical professionals. This lack of clinical experience at the top levels of management can lead to a focus on financial success at the expense of patient care and employee well-being.

To bridge the gap between management and clinical staff and create a more positive, collaborative work environment, healthcare facilities should strive to include more clinical professionals in leadership roles and adopt a more employee-centric approach to management.


The choice between disposable paper scrubs and traditional washable scrubs is a multifaceted decision that healthcare facilities must make based on their unique needs and priorities. While disposable scrubs offer potential benefits in terms of infection control and cost-effectiveness, traditional scrubs may be preferred by some healthcare professionals for their comfort and environmental impact.

Regardless of the type of scrubs chosen, healthcare facilities must also address the growing divide between management and clinical staff to create a more positive and collaborative work environment. By prioritizing infection control, employee well-being, and open communication, healthcare facilities can ensure the best possible outcomes for their staff and patients.

HarmonyCR.com - Blog