The Different Fabrics For Lab Coats

The type of lab coat you choose depends on the type of lab you work in. Medical professionals used lab coats as protection for the street clothes or medical uniforms they wear while doing rounds and consultations so a comfortable and stylish lab coat will do. On the other hand, those who work with infectious materials or dangerous chemical need a higher level of protection. In this case they type of lab coat matters and for this one has to take a look at the fabric being used for the lab coat.

Looking for the right kind of materials being used for your lab coat is critical. Most often companies provide their employees the lab coats since they usually are expensive and they also provide laundry service especially in the case of those who work with chemicals.

Cotton – this is the most common type used for medical lab coats simply because the material is lightweight, comfortable and fairly durable. Usually, lab coats can be poplin or twill weave and made from cotton or a cotton/polyester blend. This is the ability to combine the best qualities of the fabric at a lower price. Cotton is breathable but wrinkles easily so it is often combined with polyester and makes it easy to wash and wear. Poplin is often used in combination with softer and heavier grades of cotton that results to a product that does not wrinkle easily and is water and stain resistant. Of course, it can also be treated with stain release finish so that stains, like blood, can easily be removed.

Lab coats made of a higher quality of the fabric such as 100% cotton is more expensive but some people are choosing 100% cotton because it is softer and cooler fiber absorbs and releases perspiration quickly and thus allowing the fabric to "breathe". Cotton lab coats can also be treated with flame-resistant features or enhance the flame-resistance but this quality can dissipate with frequent washing/laundry. It can also be degraded by acid and so are not used in research labs or by those who work with chemicals.

Samples of 100% cotton and cotton/poly blend lab coats, these are our most popular fabrics: cotton/polyester, wash and wear, maintenance free, stays bright white, non-shrink:

  •  100% cotton medium weight (5 ounce) knee length pure cotton twill. This is the traditional medical cotton lab coat. Requires ironing and may shrink slightly.
  • Bright white 65% polyester/35% cotton twill. The fabric has minimal shrinkage, thus no ironing is required.
  • 60% cotton / 40% polyester. Light weight shirting fabric with a fine herringbone-weave, a soft, cool comfortable feel and elegant draping. Wash and wear fabric.
  • 100% cotton heavyweight fluid-resistant twill. Wash and wear, the fabric has a fluid repellant finish, thus, water just runs off the coat. The surface has a soft brushed texture and does not require ironing.

Polyester makes the lab coat resistant to liquid spills; cotton makes them cool and comfortable.

Modacrylic – fibers are soft, comfortable, and resilient and lab coats made from this fiber do not wrinkle easily. It is the type which has soil release properties so it is easy to care for. It is highly resistant to rips and tears but less so than polyamide fibers; abrasion-resistant but less so than nylon or polyester and highly-resistant to most chemicals and solvents. In direct flame, modarylic fabric shrinks to resist flame penetration though it will not melt or drip. It is self-extinguishing and rapidly dissipates when source of ignition is removed.

Nylon – are made from nylon fabric which makes it lightweight, with incredible tensile strength, durability, and resistance to damage but not water absorbent. It can be dyed easily so it can be available in a wide array of colors.Because of the properties of nylon, lab coats made out of nylon melt when heated and will usually require an application of flame retardant.

Rayon – are fairly durable but can be easily degraded by acids.

Medical professionals are not the only ones who wear lab coats. Those who work in other industries like manufacturing, food processing and other laboratories have to wear industrial lab coats which are designed with heavy fabric like a thick blend of polyester viscose. Organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have set industry standards so that there are now three levels of protection set in place.

  • Level A is used for the highest level protection and designed for splashing chemicals, exposure to unexpected vapors and gases, and anything that can be absorbed through the skin.
  • Level B should be used when there is a need for respiratory protection.
  • Level C is used with liquids that can splash, but not hurt the skin.

If you work in a biohazard lab, you may wear a disposable lab coat that is made from polypropylene. Some lab coats have carbon fibers added which increases their ability to repel fluids. Lab coats used in the automotive industry makes sure these lab coats can resist stains from grease. These are also treated with flame retardant to protect user from burns if working where heat and fire is predominant. Chemical resistant lab coats are made from cotton twill and treated with ammonia or made from the unique fabric or fire retardant material like Nomex. When exposed to heat, this fabric provides a unique thermal protection because it thickens and carbonizes.
 Red Kap Unisex Nomex IIIA Flame Resistant Lab Coat

Materials such as Tyvek are also used for special applications that have a high concentration of dust and dirt particles. Many professionals use this type of lab coat if dealing with substances such as asbestos, led dust and radioactive substances. Because Tyvek is such a tightly woven material, it keeps these particulars from getting through to the street clothing beneath.

Like I said, usually large companies provide lab coats and its laundry service for their employees especially because branded ones are really expensive. In case though you have to get your own, make sure you know what you will be working with and research what type of fabrics works best for you and your protection needs.