The proper care and handling of surgical instruments is the simplest way to protect your investment and add years to the life of your instruments. Here are a couple of handy infographics showing the steps for proper surgical instrument cleaning.

When you are cleaning instruments manually, here a few quick tips:

  • Use stiff plastic cleaning brushes.
  • Do NOT use steel wool or wire brushes. 
  • Use only neutral pH detergents. 

Take special care when you are rinsing your instruments. Here's a note of caution:

  • If not rinsed properly, low pH detergents may breakdown the stainless protective surface and cause black staining. 
  • High pH detergents may cause surface deposits of brown stains, which can interfere with the smooth operation of the instrument. 

  1. Whether you are cleaning your surgical instruments manually or ultrasonically, the first step is to rinse off all blood, bodily fluids and tissue immediately after use. Dried soils may damage the instrument surface and make cleaning difficult.
    • Use plain water
    • Do NOT use hot water, because proteinous substances will coagulate.
  2. Mix a product such as Alconox (WPI # 13740) according to the manufacturer’s directions and use to it wash the instruments.
  3. Use appropriate brushes to clean each surgical instrument.
    • Use a microbrush to remove debris from the hinged area of scissors, forceps, hemostats, ronguers, needle holders and retractors.
    • Use a microbrush to remove the debris from the box lock area and the ratchet of hemostats and needle holders.
    • Use a microbrush to clean the delicate tips of tweezers.
    • Use a microbrush to remove debris from all moving parts of retractors.
    • Use a stiff brush to clean the tip serrations and handle serrations of dressing forceps and needle holders.
    • Use a stiff brush to clean the teeth of tissue forceps.
    • Brush delicate instruments carefully and handle them separately from general instruments. Ultrasonic cleaning is recommended for delicate instruments like micro scissors (also known as Vannas scissors).
  1.  Inspect all instrument surfaces to ensure they are visibly clean and free of stains and tissue. Inspect each instrument for proper function and condition.   
  2. Rinse the surgical instruments thoroughly under running water. While rinsing, open and close scissors, hemostats, needle holders and other hinged instruments to ensure that hinge areas are also rinsed.
  3. Dry instruments thoroughly with a clean towel. This minimizes the risk of corrosion and formation of water spots. Use a spray lubricant (WPI #500126) in the hinges to improve the function of the instrument.