If you are on the go all day at work, you may be wondering what fabrics can help you stay comfortable when you begin to sweat. You may be sweating due to being in a stressful situation or because your job is physically taxing — or if you are a nurse, both. Nursing has consistently made the list of the top 10 most physically active jobs, and it’s no surprise to learn that a nurse can walk over four miles in just one shift.
When shopping for scrub tops or scrub pants, you are going to want to make sure that the items you are buying will help you to stay cool and comfortable even when you are on the go for 12 hours straight. But first, a refresher on why we are sweating in the first place. Our bodies want to carefully regulate our internal temperature so that our organs can operate at peak efficiency. To do that, they need to stay at a pretty stable temperature. So when we raise our internal temperature by exerting ourselves, getting stressed, or spending time in a warm area, the temperature sensors in our skin and nervous system send signals to start a cool-down process. The skin produces sweat, which then begins evaporating into the air, taking some of the heat with it.
Clothing can help or inhibit this process depending on a few factors. Fabrics that prevent sweat from evaporating are going to result in overheating due to reducing the cooling effect of the moisture leaving the skin. This is why fabrics that are not breathable are pretty uncomfortable. Other factors are whether a fabric can absorb sweat to help keep you cool or whether it can move the sweat away from your skin to help facilitate the evaporation process.
Finding quality scrubs that manage sweat will help you stay comfortable and help keep you focused on the tasks you need to attend to throughout your shift. Some of the fabrics that help manage sweat are:
A well-known natural fabric, cotton is loved by many and comes in many fabric styles from lightweight floaty fabrics down to heavy denim and twill. Depending on the weight and the situation it is being worn in, cotton can help by absorbing sweat. Thinner cotton fabrics like jersey knit or light chambray can help keep you cool.
Made from the fibers of the flax plant, linen is a classic fabric for warm-weather clothing. The secret cooling power of linen is its quick drying time. It can shrink easily and wrinkles almost from the first moment it is put on, so it can be a bit of a high-maintenance fabric. Some people will find it a bit scratchy but, as it is fairly lightweight and absorbs moisture easily while drying quickly, it can help in hot conditions.
Fabrics made from the fibers of the fast-growing bamboo plant have been around for thousands of years, but they only recently became popular in the U.S. Due to bamboo’s natural rapid growth, it has become known as an environmentally friendly fabric, but that can vary depending on the way that it is manufactured.
The more expensive type of bamboo fabric is made from the actual fibers of the bamboo plant, and the more affordable fabrics are made by processing the cellulose fibers, much like in the production of rayon (more on that later). Bamboo can also be made into a variety of fabrics, so the relative cooling power can vary. Bamboo is naturally absorbent and dries fairly quickly, so it may help in sweat-producing conditions.
We are talking about sweat here, right? You may be wondering how wool is making this list, but it can be a very helpful fabric when the going gets hot. Obviously, for the purpose of staying cool and comfortable, you would not want a heavy wool fabric. Wool can be spun very fine, and there are manufacturers creating lightweight wool workout clothing.
The benefits of wool are that not only does it absorb moisture well like the other natural fabrics listed so far, but it also has a bit of a natural wicking action, which helps transport the moisture to the outer surface of the fabric so that it can evaporate more quickly. The downsides of wool are that it may be scratchy or even allergenic for some people and that it can be quite pricey. Carefully following the laundering instructions is especially important with this fabric.
The cooling factors of all the previous fabrics have been that they can absorb sweat and then allow it to evaporate. The nature of polyester is that it does not absorb moisture easily but, with the addition of a process that allows it to wick moisture to the surface, it can be an incredibly cooling fabric.
When shopping for men’s or women’s scrubs, look for a wicking polyester to help keep you cool throughout your busy shift. As an added bonus, moisture-wicking polyester is also highly stain-resistant so that your scrubs stay looking new for much longer.
Rayon is what is known as a semi-synthetic fabric, in that it is made from wood fibers or other sources of cellulose, which are transformed in a manmade chemical process. Like most of the natural fabrics listed above, rayon absorbs sweat well and dries pretty quickly, helping to keep you cool. Rayon has a very smooth and soft feel and doesn’t wrinkle easily. It can shrink in the dryer, so make sure to pay attention to the care label when you launder any items made with rayon.
Stay Cool on the Job
So now you know what to look for when shopping for scrubs that will keep you cool. Pretty much anyone wearing scrubs is a hero on the job every day. Make sure you are choosing fabrics that will help you stay cool and carry on.