Archive March 2017 XVIII, No. 3

Infection Prevention: Corrosive Cleaners?

Incompatible sprays and wipes can erode plastic equipment.

Jaime Schlorff

Jaime Schlorff


sprays and wipes COLLATERAL DAMAGE The sprays and wipes your staff use to disinfectant OR equipment could be causing hidden damage.

Here's a scary thought. What if every time your turnover team sprays or wipes down a piece of equipment, the liquid disinfectant erodes the device's plastic components, over time causing the plastic to crack, craze, turn brittle and to eventually fail — all because the cleaner wasn't compatible with the plastic.

Here in our lab at ECRI Institute, we've investigated many cases of so-called environmental stress cracking from our hospital clients and have heard reports of several others. In one case, a cleaning solution corroded the plastic so badly that the device's wires were exposed. In another, the liquid disinfectant used to wipe down the surgical robot after each use eroded the plastic arm so severely that it looked like someone had taken a hammer to it.

Then there were reports of damage to OR table hand controls, ear tympanic thermometers and the plastic on the lower door hinge of infusion pumps — all from the use of incompatible liquid cleaners. The use of improper cleaners can also damage seals, degrade lubricants and cause fluid intrusion.

What's so vexing is that there's often no visible indication of impending failure. Plus, you might not know that a cleaner is incompatible with the device you're using it on until the agent has degraded the integrity of plastics. By then, the damage is done. Even when manufacturers publish equipment-specific cleaning instructions, this information isn't always readily available to clinical staff. Worse still, there's no single cleaner or cleaning process that will work with all devices. How burdensome would it be if you had to stock and use multiple cleaning products and familiarize your staff with device-specific cleaning methods?

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