Why do painters wear white?

I saw a group of men at work today at lunchtime, all wearing paint-splattered white pants and white t-shirts. They were painting a building. It brought to mind that every time I have seen a professional painter, he has been wearing white. Is there some specific reason for that?

Perhaps turpentine/paint thinner can cause the colors in dyed clothing to run?

My WAG would be that lighter colors are difinitely more popular, especially when it comes to interiors, that it just makes more sense to work wearing the lightest color of all. Granted that the point of work clothes isn’t necessarily to look good; still one has to admit that an eggshell/mushroom splatter looks better on white overalls than on blue ones.

Even for exteriors, it seems that whites and offwhites are among the most popular paint colors out there.

Just a WAG, but if you’re mostly painting white walls and white ceilings, spills won’t be so obvious on white clothes.

Beyond that, it differentiates painters from “dirty” trades like carpenters, electricians, plumbers and general labor, all of which will be more likely to wear blue or brown overalls, whci hide a fair bit of dirt.

From painterforum.com

I’m a professional, and I don’t wear white, particularly after Labor Day. snif

Yes, but a professional what? :smiley:

well, if you’re working on an outdoor job all day in the hot months, I imagine white would be cooler to wear…but that’s probably not the only reason, just one I can think of.

Huh. I would have thought it was for “laundry” purposes. As in, you can subject whites to harsher treatment (stronger soaps/solvents/bleaches, hotter water) than colors, and get them cleaner, without worrying about colorfastness. I mean, they KNOW they’re gonna get some paint on 'em somewhere, so it makes sense to wear something that’ll clean up properly.

You know, it is just a tad bit cheaper to not dye a piece of cloth than it is to dye it. Since the color of a painter’s pants is not a big factor, perhaps it’s just cheaper.


I wonder if I could hijack this a bit and ask the broader more important question: why do professions with messy activities have white uniforms? Such as, chemists, doctors, and others. For that matter, why are other materials that are meant to protect from messes also white, such as bibs and cloth napkins?

So the white fabric can be bleached.

Imagine a hospital with doctors, nurses etc. all in black or scarlet uniforms. :eek:

As for painters, they’re coquettish. Paint splashes are prettier on white. :slight_smile:

At many hospitals, the staff wear colour-coded uniforms. Shock-Trauma is pink, Emergency blue, Pediatrics yellow, that sort of thing. IIRC Johns Hopkins is like that, but I haven’t worked at that particular site in a few years.

My WAG is a lot of professions/crafts wear (or used to wear) white to display the fact that their clothes are completely clean and therefore unlikely to contaminate this experiment, your food or your wound.

The bit about the strong soap/bleach for painters outfits makes sense to me.

In hospitals, the surgical outfits are typically either pale green or blue to, er, minimize the appearance of the rare, er, bodily fluid contamination? (What with such being a biological hazard, all such uniforms are promptly treated after any possible contamination, I’m sure.)

Further to other hijacks, there’s a color tradition for the hardhats worn on construction sites, isn’t there? White for architects/engineers, yellow for carpenters, blue for… metal workers? What is the code, exactly?

I understand that in the case of medical professionals, they wear white (or pastels) for the opposite reason from painters: stains (blood, filth) will show up more readily, so the wearer knows the garment must be changed.

You, know, whatever historic forces were responsible for the adoption of white for painter’s pants, I have a very strong feeling that the operant cause in the world today is habit.


“When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.” ~ Eric Hoffer ~

Okay, am I the only person who knows the joke about the pirate ship captain who yells “Bring my red shirt!” before every battle?

I believe my grandfather used kerosene to clean his painter’s overalls. And this was something he did on a regular basis, to hear my dad tell it.