Immediate-use container with corrosion due to not cleaning after each use.
By Nancy Chobin, RN, AAS, ACSP, CSPM
Q: Our facility has been using rigid sterilization containers for some time. We do not have a cart washer or mechanical washer so we wipe them out with a disinfectant wipe. I attended a webinar and was told this is not accepted practice. We have been cleaning the containers this way for years. What is the correct practice?
A: According to the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI)'s ST-79 (Comprehensive Guide to Steam Sterilization and sterility Assurance in Healthcare Facilities,” rigid sterilization container systems should be cleaned carefully before sterilization even if they are to be returned immediately to use. Before acquiring container systems, the user should confirm that the manufacturer’s validated cleaning method complies with the facility’s procedures.
Container systems can be cleaned by either manual or mechanical means. The container system manufacturer’s written instructions for use (IFU) for cleaning and rinsing should be followed, as should accepted practices for decontamination and employee safety. Personnel who manually clean containers and contaminated contents of containers must wear appropriate PPE for the task they are performing. Before it is cleaned, a container system should be disassembled. For container systems with filters, disposable filters should be removed or the filter protector/holder should be released. For container systems with valves, the valves should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s written IFU. Interior baskets should also be removed and cleaned. Also, understand all rigid container systems, including those used for immediate use steam sterilization should be cleaned after each use.
While most rigid containers can be cleaned in a mechanical washer or even a cart washer, you should only clean the containers as validated by the container manufacturer and in conjunction with the cleaning equipment manufacturer’s instructions.
Rigid containers are considered a packaging system, therefore, they must be completely cleaned after each. Failure to do so can result in a build-up of debris inside which can be deposited on the instruments and/or corrosion of the container.
It is also important to use the recommended detergent (e.g., neutral pH) since many rigid containers (including plastic containers) can be damaged by exposure to alkaline detergents.
After cleaning, it is important to make sure all of the detergent residue is rinsed off; detergent residue can interfere with sterilization.
While the use of a disinfectant wipe may be more convenient, unless the specific rigid container manufacturer has validated cleaning using a disinfectant wipe, this practice should be discontinued. Understand that disinfectant wipes were intended for environmental disinfection, not for instruments or containers.
Nancy Chobin, RN, AAS, ACSP, CSPM, is a sterile processing consultant and educator.