How to Clean a Chef Coat

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My husband is an amazing chef.  I love to learn from him and enjoy all the food he makes, but I really dislike washing chef coats.   And when I say dislike, I really mean hate.  

I really have nothing nice to say about chef coats.  They are big and bulky and stains stick to them like super glue.

With each restaurant change (and there have been quite a few as my husband has moved up in his career), come new chef coats and the task of finding what cleaning treatment will work the best for that specific coat.

If you are like me, you have googled, “How to clean a chef coat” on numerous occasions as you struggle to get out those stains that somehow made it past the apron.

You might have also wondered why in the world chef coats are white. (You can read more about that here.)

Below are some suggestions on how to clean a chef coat, compiled by myself and other chefs and their wives/significant others.  (Thanks for the help guys!)

(Also, make sure not to miss my post on how to get the smell out of chef clothes.)

First things first. . . water temperature.  Heat sets stains, so many people recommend not washing chef coats in hot water.  However, I have found that many stains come out easier with warm or hot water, depending on which of the below treatment methods you are using.  So the answer as to what water temperature to use?  Try it with both cold and hot water and see what works best for your water, detergent and chef coats.  Aren’t I helpful?  You’re welcome.  🙂

{This post contains affiliate links. (In non-blogger language, that means I might get a small commission (at no extra cost to you) when you click on some of the links below.)  Thanks for supporting EmulsifiedFamily.com.}

Netepur Bar by H2O at Home

netepur bar H2O at homeThis is by far the best product I have found over the years.  It’s a natural bar that you scrub on the stain before washing.  I wet the stain, rub the soap on it and scrub.  I how to clean a chef coatthen throw it in the wash with detergent and a little bleach and it works great.  Over the past 8 months is has removed almost every stain on my husband’s chef coats.  (Many of the stains disappear before I even throw it in the wash.)  My husband has 5 white chef coats and this is the longest he has ever kept a set.  He usually has to replace them every 5-6 months because of stains I just can not get out.  This product actually does a decent job at getting black carbon out as well (at least on my chef/husband’s current coats.)

My only reservation with recommending this product is the shipping cost.  The bar itself (which you can purchase from an H2O at Home consultant is only $13 and will last a while, but the shipping is just under $8.  That’s not a bad deal for shipping if you purchase other products as well (you can see my review of them here), but if you just want to try out this one thing, it’s a bit much for shipping. The bar is really great and you might  be able to get a local consultant to give you a small sample bar to try first to see if you like it.  It’s worth a try if can’t find anything else that works for you.  (It’s also great for other clothes and carpet.)

Felths Naptha and Oxiclean Paste

Fels-NapthaMix together some Oxiclean with a little water to make a paste.  Spread the paste on the stain and scrub the stain with a bar of Fels-Naptha and Oxiclean paste.  Wash as usual.

Bleach

Clorox BleachI usually take a chef coat that is toward the end of it’s life and try it with bleach first to make sure the embroidery will not fade.  So far, none of them have, but it’s always best to try on one you don’t care about losing just in case.  🙂  I have had good success with using laundry detergent and about 1/2 to 1 cup of bleach per load, starting the cycle on the washer and letting it run for about 10 minutes and then stopping it and letting the coats soak for 2-3 hours.  Then I start up the washer again and let it finish.  I always use a second rinse.

Bleach Pen

Bleach PenAfter I’ve tried everything else, a bleach pen is my last option.  I spread the gel on the stain, let it set for about 10 minutes and wash it.

There have been a few times I have had a lot of stains so I tried making my own bleach gel pen.  It works the first time you use it just as well as the store bought stuff, but I have not been successful in storing it without it losing it’s potency.  Making it each time you need it is a pain, but will save you a lot of money.  (There have been many times I’ve had more time than money, so things like this were a great option and helped our budget a lot.)

Dry CleaningWhite Brite

Nice option if you can afford it.  🙂

White Brite

Add to regular wash cycle to help keep coats white and to prevent them from turning yellow.

OxiClean

Soaking in a Bucket of Water and Oxiclean

Fill a large bucket with water and Oxiclean and soak the coats in the solution until you are ready to wash them.  (Not the easiest option if you have small kids or pets . . . just stating the obvious, right?)

Dishwasher Detergent

I’ve had success in the past putting some liquid dishwasher detergent on stains before washing the coats.  Just make sure to read the label to see if it contains bleach.  If is does, make sure not to leave it on the stain for long or it will yellow the coat in that one spot.  (I’m speaking from experience here.)  It’s worth a try if you already have some in the cupboard, right?

Bicarb Paste and White Vinegar

Make a paste out of bicarb (baking soda for those of us in the U.S. – yes I had to google it) and water and scrub it into the stain.  Rinse off with white vinegar and wash.Purell

Hand Sanitizer

To remove ink stains from chef coats, squirt hand sanitizer on the ink and scrub it.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes and wash it in hot water.  More details here.

RIT Whitening & Brightening TreatmentRIT

Once a week use this treatment on your coats to keep them bright white.

Dawn PlatinumDawn Platinum

Squirt directly on the stain and scrub with a toothbrush.  Wash as usual.

Other not so helpful but hysterical tips from a few of my readers:

If all else fails, use a garbage can and lighter fluid or possibly use them for an end of the summer bonfire!

Pray that his next job will have laundry service!  (Man, I miss those days . . .)

Have I left out any other amazing ways to clean a chef coat?  If you have found something that works for you, please leave a note in the comments so we can try it!

how to clean a chef coat

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Happy Cleaning!

From one chef’s wife to another,

Jennifer

 

 

PS:  While you’re here, you might want to check out a few of my most popular posts about combining restaurant and family life!

what chefs really eat at the end of the day sidebar

Letter to a Young Chef Wife sidebar

Couple cooking together

Man having his wife tasting pasta dish

Chef cutting the mushrooms on a wooden board

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24 Comments

  1. Jessica I

    Reading this makes me so thankful that out of 15 chef coats, only one is white!! He prefers black, thank goodness. I do remember how much of a pain it was to clean my own white chefs coats though! I strictly keep to colors and absolutely no whites!

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      I wish black was an option. 🙂 Do you have trouble with grease stains on black coats?

      Reply
  2. Jessica I

    You would think with all of the fried foods he cooks grease spots would be an issue, however, they really aren’t. When he was in a more corporate setting, they would have a stench. Like wash in a separate load. Now, either I don’t have time or I don’t care. I can’t tell which. I was also waiting tables at the time so all restaurant clothes got washed together. 😉

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      That’s good to know. (I wash my husbands chef pants, socks and aprons separately because of the lovely kitchen smell.)

      Reply
  3. Patricia Kellogg

    I have happily survived 8 1/2 with my chef. I have learned a very good way to make the chef jackets “stain resistant”. Old fashion heavy spray starch. I like niagra. I take his jackets out still very slightly damp , hang them . As I iron , I spray, heavily every inch , all the way to the hem. Yes even the back. I iron in panels -seam to seam. Not only does he look sharp but you’ll see the liquids and grease will literally roll off. Be careful with bleach pens . -A lesson learned the hard way- if you don’t wash shortly after applying the bleach can eat the cotton and you will find a weak spot or even a hole.

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      Great idea. I don’t have to iron my husband’s current chef coats, but might think about doing it anyways, with starch, just to try it! Thanks! And good reminder about the bleach pen!

      Reply
  4. Heather Bible

    Luckily, my chef is the one who decides what color coats to wear, so he gets black. When he wore whites, the only thing that got the saffron oil out was Simple Green Aerosol Degreaser. I don’t have any problem with grease stains on the black coats, and he has stopped using infused oils on his dishes so I don’t have that to deal with anymore 🙂

    Reply
  5. Jen

    So…since burning really isn’t an option…right?! LOL.
    My favorite trick to add to any of your above solutions is a good ole fashioned toothbrush.The dry stiff brush will get at the stubborn food still stuck to the jacket, and once its wet with some soap preference you can scrub and really get to the stain at the fiber level. My favorite soap currently is the new DAWN platinum. It just really seems to be able to break the food stains best. But I will now go in search of the Netepur bar….
    Although since being married to a chef, I have considered opening my own dry cleaning business 😉

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      Love the dry cleaning business idea!

      I will have to try a toothbrush on a stain soon. I love Dawn, but just use the regular one. Do you think the platinum one works better?
      Jennifer recently posted…10 Most Popular Posts of 2014My Profile

      Reply
      • Jes R

        I have been dating a chef for just over a year now. We moved in together pretty early on (6mths) because we felt strongly for one another and knew it might be the only way we would ever get enough time together to really build a relationship! So while I am on the newer end of the spectrum of relationships I am definitely immersed in the world of a chefs partner, including laundry! I personally strongly prefer Dawn Platinum as well. It bills itself as “the power of an overnight soak in 3 min” and it does not disappoint!

        Reply
  6. Nina

    Another great thing to do with old white chef coats is tye-dying them at a summer party. I have used the Dollar Store generic Oxiclean and that has helped not only get stains out but the horrid stink of friolator.

    Reply
  7. Veronica Cruz

    Hi, Jennifer! Your post is extremely interesting and helpful. I am not a chef, but I love to cook for my family, and it is impossible to don’t have stains over my clothes. It is great that you shared experience with cleaning and removing the dirtiness. Best regards

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      Thanks Veronica. I hope the tips can help you with getting food off of regular clothes too!

      Reply
  8. christi

    I have been married to 2 chefs and I fill a huge bucket with oxy clean, cascade, and whatever else I have on hand and let them soak for days before washing and hang drying. He always gets compliments on his jackets at work.
    To get the stench out, use crystals in the wash.
    I am going to try the RIT after reading this and was thinking about trying a water repellent or stain guard on the new jackets.

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      Do you ever dry the coats in the dryer or just hang them dry and then iron them?

      Reply
  9. Top Chef Uniforms

    Thanks Jennifer. It really is great that you share experience with cleaning and removing the dirtiness.

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      Thanks. Glad to help!

      Reply
  10. Kasey K. Cromer

    Any tips on removing carbon? I think it’s from cleaning stoves/grills. It’s pretty set in. I have tried shout, oxyclean, and bleach! Also tried scrubbing with dish detergent!

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      Carbon is horrible. I had some luck with a netepur bar when it was fresh and hadn’t been washed yet, but even a bleach pen only faded it a little bit after I had been washed and dried it. Carbon is one of the only things I really struggled with, and I know it’s common because you brush up against it on the bottom of pans. Usually if he wore an apron, there was not too much of a problem with carbon. But when he would forget or was out of aprons, that’s when it was a problem. If you have one that is really bad, I would put a couple cups of bleach in a full load of water in the washing machine and let it soak. It might work, it might ruin the chef coat, but it’s worth a try before you throw it away. I’m not sure if that is helpful or not, but good luck.

      Reply
  11. Gabriel

    Hello, my chef whites has some coloured prints, and can I wash them in any of the products that u suggested.

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      All of my chefs colored embroidery on his chef coats have not faded from OxiClean or the netepur bar. If you have a coat that is really bad, and you can’t really wear it anyways, I would try soaking it in Bleach. I was actually able to bleach a lot of my husband’s coats even with colored embroidery, as they use some special kind of thread on them. I obviously can’t speak for your chef coats, but it might be worth a try. Just be willing to lose a coat if you are going to try with regular bleach. I usually waited to do that until we had one we were willing to throw away because it was so bad. Good luck!

      Reply

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