Ditch the Pipe Cleaners in the Decontamination Department!


Listen, I know this topic may ruffle some pipe cleaner feathers but hear me out. Pipe cleaners are often viewed as a cheap and easy tool for cleaning in decontamination, but cleaning brushes are flat out the better cleaning tool. Increased emphasis on effective surgical instrument cleaning practices in the sterile processing industry have increased the performance requirements for cleaning tools in decontamination and pipe cleaners no longer make the cut for manual cleaning of lumened instruments. Pipe cleaners can cause a multitude of problems in decontam. Pipe cleaners are well known for shedding filament in use and our goal in decontamination is to remove soil and contaminants, not add more. Filament like nylon and polypropylene will hold up to rigorous cleaning in the lumens and surface of instruments. Pipe cleaner filaments also do not create the type of friction and cleaning action technicians need to effectively clean. Friction is your friend when it comes to cleaning. Instrument cleaning brushes provide the friction that required to remove even the most stubborn surgical soils on the surface of an instrument. When wet, pipe cleaners easily lose their shape and lack the same efficient surface coverage as a lumen cleaning brush. A stronger filament like nylon and polypropylene holds its form, even when wet. Guidelines and recommended practices support the use of cleaning brushes. Many manufacturer instructions for use (IFUs) are being updated to include specific diameters and lengths of channel cleaning brushes required to effectively clean their instruments. Ditching pipe cleaners in favor of instrument cleaning brushes will improve cleaning efficiency and efficacy, increase user satisfaction, and satisfy manufacturer IFU requirements.