Well at first it seems kind of awkward but let me tell you what I was thinking from past few days. Currently I am studying and go to school. In school, whenever we have to go inside a chemistry lab then it’s compulsory for us to wear a lab coat; without one we were not allowed to enter and do experiments. But then one question arises is: Why it is compulsory?

Then I started finding solution for this question. I thought that we wear lab coat just for safety against all those chemicals we use for experiments but then if accidentally someone drops any concentrated acid then I guess that lab coat won’t be able to protect us. So if we wear something solid or something hard which can protect us from those chemical that might be helpful but we only wear a lab coat.

Then I thought that lab coats have so many pockets on them so it might help us to carry a few things but then again why don’t we use something else which is handy rather than a lab coat (still this example is quite useless).

After hours of thinking I am not able to come up with anything.

And also whenever anyone goes inside chemistry lab he/she wears a lab coat which is quite similar to everyone else’s. I.e. everyone wears same type of lab coat (a long, white colored coat) which is quite fascinating.

So my question is really simple: Why do we have to wear a lab coat when we go inside a chemistry lab and how come everyone uses same type of lab coat?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I did a lot of acid/base work. My lab coat was full of little holes after a couple of years. So it will protect you from drops, but not of course from getting drenched. That is what the lab shower is for. If you have to use the shower all clothes off. No time for modesty. Take nothing off over your head. There should be bandage scissors by the shower. $\endgroup$
    – MaxW
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ You should also have some sort of protective eyewear. Think of the eyewaer as horse blinders. A student lab is a crowed place. Also turn your head first and look where you are going before darting off in another direction. $\endgroup$
    – MaxW
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 17:29

1 Answer 1


It is protection. It should be worn whenever you work with potentially dangerous chemicals. In German, it is even called (part of the) persönliche Schutzausrüstung, i.e. personal protective gear. Lab coats:

  • protect you against contamination with chemicals — acids, bases, toxic molecules and salts. They will ‘hit’ your coat and ‘stick’ to it rather than reaching your clothes. Don’t say you are careful. Your labmate may not be or an accident may happen. This is also the reason why labcoats are never allowed where food or drink are consumed.

  • protect you against spills of liquids. You can quickly take off a lab coat and not be contaminated by the liquid in question. This is basically an extension of the first bullet point.

  • protect you against fire. This might not be obvious, but lab coats are generally cotton which does not burn well. If you are wearing synthetic fibre below the lab coat, ripping that off could give you valuable seconds for not burning to death.

  • show other people that you are working with something potentially dangerous. Assuming you are dealing with adults that means they will know better than startle you because they can.

Everything else a lab coat supplies is basically just extension of the protection or meant to help people actually use it. Pockets: If it didn’t have any, people would keep using their trousers’ ones potentially contaminating them. Long sleeves: You arms need protection, too. Being long: so do your legs (at least partially).

And of course, it’s pretty cool if you walk in a lab coat, isn’t it? (That was my feeling at least.)

  • $\begingroup$ And one last thing which I also mentioned is that how come everyone uses same type of coat world wide ? $\endgroup$
    – Shashank
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Shashank Well, because never change a winning team. Or alternatively: Because it is so optimised, one would arrive at the same optimisation level anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Shashank they're not all the same, some are cotton, some polypropylene, some tyvek $\endgroup$
    – DavePhD
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 17:25

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