Understanding the Differences Between Smocks, Frocks, Gowns, and Lab Coats

Differences Between Smocks, Frocks, Gowns, and Lab Coats

Protective equipment and cleanroom apparel are vital for contamination control. Regardless of the specific type of lab or cleanroom, keeping a clean and safe work environment is essential to reducing any possible contamination, messes, or even injuries. When working in a cleanroom or laboratory, some of these protective clothing types come in the form of frocks, smocks, lab coats, and gowns. At first glance, these forms of PPE (personal protective apparel) may seem almost the same. It may be difficult to notice what the differences are or, even more important, why these differences matter to the work you do. Each one has its own unique design that alters the exact benefits it can offer the one wearing it.


Smocks are short, coming to about 36 to 39 inches in length. They have elastic around the wrists to keep a tight and secure fit to keep your arms safe. The smock is great for those who need to wear one for longer periods of time or for those needing to change them often. There are three pockets you can use to make carrying items more convenient and they are designed to wrap around your torso and tie securely in the front, allowing you to cinch it tighter at the waist as needed. The bound neck keeps you even cleaner and safer, offering ideal protection against nonhazardous liquids, particulates, and microorganisms. Smocks are not made for working with fire, sparks, or heated items.

Sterile Microporous Cleanroom Frock / Lab Coat


For jobs that may involve particulates or liquids, the frock offers a layer of protection that fits snuggly at the wrists with the same elastic as a smock to make sure nothing you’re working with finds its way into the sleeves. They’re a longer design than smocks, measuring between 41 and 57 inches in length for even more of a barrier and they have an A-line shape for comfort and movability. For those who need to change in and out of them quickly, frocks also feature a zippered front closure to allow you to change fast. Frocks are lighter and just like smocks are not made for protecting against working with flames and heat, though the overall design offers a deal of coverage for a wide variety of uses.

45″ Blue Poly ISO Long Sleeve Gown With Thumb Loop


Gowns are great for supplying protective garb in work environments with multiple workers. These offer one style of clothing so you don’t need to worry about ordering different sizes. They simply slip over your head and tie around the waist for a completely adjustable fit. The knit wrists are snug while still remaining comfortable with a thicker cuff for an even more secure protection. There are ties that follow the neckline as well to make sure the gown fits perfectly all over to keep out any particulates, microorganisms, or spilled liquids from contacting your skin. They measure 39 inches in length, making them shorter and similar to the smock. When a consistent and one-size-fits-all style would work best for your work environment, the gown is usually your best option.

The Safety Zone Spunbond Polypropylene Lab Coat

Lab Coats

One of the most versatile types of protective clothing is the lab coat. It’s worn in a variety of settings, is available in different materials, and the convenience and comfort of the design can’t be beaten. There’s a reason it’s so commonly used. The raglan sleeves are open to provide a great range of motion and comfort to keep you from feeling restricted and make it easier to wear for longer periods of time. The front can be worn open or can be snapped closed depending on your needs. Lab coats are longer, measuring between 40 and 51 inches in length. Just like the smock, there are three pockets, and the lab coats come in five sizes so you can be certain the fit is perfect.

Choosing the right protection for you or your workers will make all the difference in keeping your work environment safe and clean. It can even reduce the chance of injuries, product defects, or inaccurate results. Using the type of barrier garments best suited to your particular work can impact the comfort of those who wear them. It’s important to understand what will work best for you, your workers, and the type of work you’re accomplishing. Some will need to change their protective apparel often and quickly while others will be able to wear the same article of clothing for a while. Each environment has its own specific needs that should be assessed and considered carefully in order to make the right choice of outer protective garments.

Need help selecting the correct garment? Please contact us