Brush Styles: Why Have Them and What Do They Do?


When was the last time you saw someone using a toothbrush to comb their hair? If you answered the question with a guffaw and a response of “never, why would anyone do that?” you are correct. Having a variety of brush styles in decontamination is vital for a successful manual cleaning policy. A one-style-fits-all attitude will not promote effective and efficient instrument cleaning; only having a variety of cleaning tools and training on how to choose the appropriate tool for each instrument will. The number of different brush styles needed can vary significantly based on the instrumentation in the department. At a minimum, every facility must have toothbrush style brushes and a variety of channel cleaning brushes. Additionally, the type of bristle material, for example, polypropylene, rigid nylon, brass, or stainless steel should be considered. When selecting the appropriate bristle material for a cleaning brush, there are several considerations. Always check the instrument manufacturer IFU to review cleaning brush recommendations before cleaning any instrument, but a good rule of thumb is to start with nylon before moving to a more abrasive bristle material. Internal channels and lumens can be challenging to clean with standard channel cleaning brushes. Brushes with a protective tip or fan-tip for closed-end lumens should be used to avoid damage to the internal walls of the instrument. Cleaning surgical instrumentation should not require serious physical effort. The biggest contributing factor to effective and efficient instrument cleaning is having the right tools and training for the job!