The role of cleaning and detergents in instrument processing

The importance of thorough (pre-) cleaning of medical devices is obvious, because effective disinfection and subsequent sterilization can only be performed on clean instruments.


Thorough cleaning is a fundamental prerequisite for successful disinfection. If cleaning is not carried out properly, residual contamination can adhere to the instrument and be "baked" onto the instrument surface by the subsequent chemical or thermal, or chemothermal, final disinfection.

This in turn can lead to material damage such as #corrosion of the instrument surface. Likewise, the antimicrobial effect of the disinfectants can be impaired by soiling.


Two types of chemicals are suitable for (pre)cleaning, a pure cleaner or a cleaner with a disinfecting component. Whichever #processchemical is used, care should be taken to use a non-protein-fixing agent. Products containing aldehyde in particular should be avoided in (pre-) cleaning, as the active ingredient is known to react with proteins, resulting in cross-linking of the protein molecules. The proteins coagulate and are thus "baked" to the instrument surface by the active ingredient. Another criterion for the choice of #processchemical is #materialcompatibility. For particularly gentle cleaning, #pHneutral to #mildlyalkaline products are recommended, because in this pH range compatibility with many materials, even sensitive ones such as color-anodized #aluminum, is given.


In principle, the application instructions of the #processchemical (#concentration, #contacttime, #materialcompatibility) as well as the #manufacturer's instructions of the instrument manufacturers must always be observed.



About the author

Aaron Papadopoulos has been a member of AKI since 2018 and is one of the representatives of the process chemicals manufacturers in the group. He is responsible for product management for instrument reprocessing within Ecolab Deutschland GmbH.

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