The Reason Why Lab Coats Are White

Whether it be in chemistry labs or operating rooms, you’ll come across people wearing white lab coats. The same thing goes for physicists and med-school students. The white lab coat is a classic garment that represents most medical and scientific settings. People associate a white lab coat with medicine and science in one form or another. But the question is, why do they use a white lab coat? Won’t chemical spills and bodily fluids easily stain it’s rather immaculate appearance?

Apparently, there is a reason behind the colour scheme. Today we’ll be discussing why lab coats are white and why it’s important for people in the medical and scientific field to wear this colour-specific garment.

It’s much easier to practice proper hygiene

The medical and scientific field requires flawless equipment and attire for a good reason. White is the colour of choice because it’s relatively easy to spot harmful bacteria, chemicals, and other pathogens that come in contact with the fabric. Lab coats act as an armor that shields the wearer from all kinds of harmful microorganisms. A white lab coat shows kinks in the armor quite easily and it’s much easier to practice proper hygiene for the wearer’s health and safety.

Nurses and scientists can tell when a white lab coat needs to be cleaned as opposed to a dark-coloured one that makes stains quite difficult to spot. This helps reduce the risk of infections and diseases that could otherwise be passed on when not cleaned appropriately. A white lab coat is also much easier to maintain. Should a white lab coat require chemical cleaning or bleaching, the fibers won’t be damaged or discoloured.

The costs are much lower

To this day, the origin of the white lab coat is still unknown. But before it became a mainstream garment, beige was the colour of choice. The shift to a white lab coat can be attributed to costs since dying fabric can be quite expensive. The need to keep dyed lab coats properly cleaned made it expensive to maintain and keeping it in good shape can be difficult as well.

The white lab coat has earned its status as a practical workhorse garment. Its low-cost and low-maintenance qualities have made it the colour of choice for lab coats used in medical and scientific fields.

It serves a powerful symbolic significance

A white lab coat is universally recognised as a symbol of rigor across the medical and scientific professions around the world. Donning a white lab coat carries a symbolic significance in which the wearer is proud to display. This rings true especially in medicine where the colour white promotes academic maturity and scientific rigor. Before doctors started wearing white lab coats, they wore the trademark black suits. The attempt to switch to the white lab coat was done to move past the stigma of snake-oil vendors and bring forth an image of a respectable scientist associated with modern medicine. Today, many medical students receive their white lab coat as a rite of passage; transitioning from learning medicine to actual application.

Even chemistry students wear their white lab coats with pride. It represents their dedication and training to learn science in the highest standard possible. Ask a chemistry student about wearing a white lab coat and they’ll say it’s a symbol of competency in any scientific field. In an academic field, the white lab coat helps distinguish students of different majors and it can also differentiate specializations from one student to another.

It gives a sense of comfort and assurance

White lab coats don’t just apply to students and professionals. For the patients, it can serve as a sign of comfort and relief. Seeing a person wearing a white lab coat means that their medical needs will be attended to and that in itself has made the garment withstand the test of time. Patients can feel uneasy or nervous in any hospital environment but when they see a person wearing a white lab coat, their anxiety and fear are relieved. This is because the colour white can be associated with professionalism and cleanliness that the doctors exude when wearing such a garment. 

You can see the significance of the white lab coat when you step inside a hospital. In a medical setting, patients can easily tell doctors and physicians apart from other staff. From professionalism to practicality, a white lab coat gives a sense of assurance to the wearer and the patient. A white lab coat communicates the doctor’s medical intent to cure the illness of the patient and the colour itself represents purity and compassion.

Practical science played an important role

As one of the founding fathers of physics, Albert Einstein once said, “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.” Since then, there have been many renditions of this quote that equates to one simple meaning; practical science.

The white lab coat serves as a reminder that science isn’t intended to be a complex collection of technical jargon, but a collective exploration of how our world and our universe works. This approach has made its way into modern science and it’s one of the reasons why lab coats are donned by many professionals today. It’s practical and it embodies science in the simplest way possible.