Germs from a patient may be found on any object the patient touched or on equipment that was used during their care. Some germs can live up to 5 months on a dry surface.
Germs on any surface can pass to you or another patient. This is why it is important to disinfect supplies and equipment.
To disinfect something means to clean it to destroy germs. Disinfectants are the cleaning solutions that are used to disinfect. Disinfecting supplies and equipment help prevent the spread of germs.
Follow your workplace policies on how to clean supplies and equipment.
Disinfecting supplies and equipment
Start by wearing the right personal protective equipment (PPE). Your workplace has a policy or guidelines on what to wear in different situations. This includes gloves and, when needed, a gown, shoe covers, and a mask. Always wash your hands before putting on gloves and after taking off gloves.
Catheters or tubes that go into blood vessels are either:
Used only one time and then thrown away
Or are 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.
For equipment that touches only healthy skin, such as blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes:
Do not use on one patient and then another patient.
Clean with a light or medium-level cleaning solution between uses with different patients.
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 carefully for each solution. 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. Updated December 2009. http://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/pdf/guidelines/Disinfection_Nov_2008.pdf. Accessed February 20, 2014.
Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.