Germs from a patient may be found on any object that was used during the patient’s care. Some germs can live for 5 months on a dry surface.
The word disinfect means to clean something to destroy germs. Disinfectants are the cleaning solutions that are used to disinfect. Disinfecting supplies and equipment helps prevent the spread of germs.
Your workplace has policies about how to clean supplies and equipment.
Disinfecting Supplies and Equipment
Start with wearing the right equipment. This will include gloves, and you might need to wear a gown, shoe covers, and a mask.
Your workplace will have a policy or guidelines about what to wear.
Always wash your hands after you take off your gloves.
Catheters or tubes that go into blood vessels are either:
Used only one time and then thrown away, OR
Sterilized so they can be used again
Clean reusable supplies, such as tubes like endoscopes, with an approved cleaning solution and procedure before they are used again.
Equipment that touches only healthy skin, such as blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes:
Should NOT be used on one patient and then another patient
Can be cleaned with a light or medium-level cleaning solution between uses with a different patient
Use cleaning solutions approved by your workplace. Choosing the correct one is based on:
The type of equipment and supplies you are cleaning
The type of germs you are destroying
Read and follow directions for each solution carefully. You may need to allow the disinfectant to dry on the equipment for a set period of time before rinsing it off.
Rutala WA, Weber DJ, Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guideline for disinfection and sterilization in healthcare facilities. 2008.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.