At first blush, the color of a healthcare professional’s scrubs can seem like a matter of personal preference—or even just a way of simplifying their lives by selecting that classic blue shade.
But what many people don’t know is that there’s a story behind each shade of scrubs that tells us about the history of medicine. In other cases, the scrub color is less about trade secrets and more about putting patients at ease, inspiring confidence, or projecting professionalism.
To that end, answering the question, “What color scrubs do nurses wear?” means you’ll need to know why they wear them. In this guide, we’ll walk you through scrub colors' meaning and how to maintain their hues to keep spirits high.
5 Scrubs Colors and What They Mean
Just as there are numerous benefits of compression socks for nurses, the same is true for scrubs. While turquoise, blue, and green are the most popular scrubs’ shades, today’s healthcare professionals have a range of scrubs colors, patterns, and styles to choose from, so it can be difficult to figure out how to wear scrubs. That said, some hospitals have strict dress codes that dictate certain workers must wear particular scrub hues because this can make it easier to identify other members of their team.
Let’s examine what five particular scrubs colors may signify when glancing around the hospital room floor.
The world’s first scrubs came in white, which made it easier to spot stains (and may have made a subtle statement about the importance of sanitation).
After a few decades, white was phased out of surgical settings because doctors complained that its bright hue strained their eyes.1 Even so, some nurses today still opt for white scrubs.
As white scrubs became less popular, many surgeons adopted a pale green hue. Today, green and teal scrubs are still commonly worn because:
- They’re suitable for surgery – Under the bright lights during an operation, green and teal can be much easier on the eyes, but they’ll still show stains.
- They’re naturally soothing – Moreover, green has also been historically associated with the medical profession and is often used on hospital walls and bedding because it was thought to help calm patients.2
Blue is one of the most common scrubs colors, particularly for nurses. This shade is said to promote tranquility and feelings of peace, which can be a visual boon in the hectic hallways of hospitals.
Because of this specific color’s ubiquity, blue can also convey a sense of trust. Blue scrubs are worn by both nurses and doctors, with darker shades like navy generally worn by those in positions of authority.
A demure yet authoritative color, black takes care of two concerns when donned in a medical setting:
- It conceals stains – If your well-worn scrubs have taken a few hits here and there, black is an effective color for hiding incongruities while still looking professional.
- It appears more formal – Black can provide an appropriate, sympathetic air in workplaces where grieving is common. If you’re a healthcare professional who frequently speaks with family members or prominent patients, earnest black scrubs can help perform some of your patient-facing workloads for you.
Pink is often chosen by nurses or those working in pediatrics. It’s a fun hue that brings a lighthearted feel to a somber setting, making it an especially suitable choice for those working in hospitals that serve children.
Pink scrubs can also carry other meanings. For example, when worn in October, they offer a subtle nod to the fight against breast cancer. It can also be an on-the-nose choice for Valentine’s Day for those who like to coordinate their clothing with holidays.
How to Keep Your Scrubs Colors Vibrant
With so much meaning riding on the shade of your medical scrubs, you’ll want to learn proper care protocol to keep your colors of choice popping. Follow these 3 tips to keep them in tip-top shape, so you can light up every room you enter:3
- Most scrubs come in cotton or a cotton blend textile. Cotton scrubs should be washed on the “cold” setting, while warm will do for blends.
- To avoid shrinkage and keep colors pristine, air dry your cotton blends or dry them on the “low” dryer setting. For blends, you can dial the heat up to medium without worrying about the color fading.
- If your medical scrubs need an instant refresh, try tossing ¼ to ½ cup of white vinegar into your washing machine. Vinegar acts as a natural, inexpensive, and low-impact brightener.4
Lastly, your uniform wouldn’t do justice to your profession if it didn’t turn up stains from time to time. In general, stubborn stains, tears in the fabric, or faded color are all signs it’s time to cycle out your set and invest in something new.
Color Coordinate Your Scrubs with Snibbs Shoes
There’s just one more item that can make a fresh, vibrant set of scrubs sparkle: a non-slip, easy-to-clean pair of work shoes for nurses that can bring your work wardrobe together.
Snibbs slip-resistant work shoes sparkle in beautiful shades, sleek styles, and the orthopedic comfort healthcare professionals need to stay balanced and supported on the job. With an ultra-roomy toe box, custom cushioned insole, and slip-on (and off) design, they’re the perfect match for every shade in the modern essential worker’s closet.
- Life At Excelsior. Why Nurses Wear White and the Evolution of Nursing Uniforms. https://www.excelsior.edu/article/why-nurses-wear-white-and-the-evolution-of-nursing-uniforms/
- Canadian Medical Association Journal. The colour of medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2742127/
- The Spruce. How to Clean and Care for Medical Scrubs. https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-wash-medical-scrubs-2146294
- The San Francisco Gate. How to Brighten Colors in the Washing Machine. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/brighten-colors-washing-machine-24824.html