Everyone Loves a Hot Bath: Temperature And Its Effect on Manual Cleaning


One of my favorite baby shower gifts is the beloved rubber ducky featuring a built-in temperature indicator. Do we have a comparable issue to monitor temperatures for manual cleaning in sterile processing?

Some hospitals receive an unpleasant surprise when a deficiency is cited for failure to meet chemical instructions for use. While some enzymatic products may need a minimum temperature to activate, most detergents, both enzymatic and non-enzymatic, will specify preferred temperatures on the label. To help with monitoring consider both thermometers and sink wall stickers. After reviewing label directions, consider posting temperature and dosing on a laminated wall chart, then ensure training and return demonstration. Every technician should be able to state temperature and dosing for the chemicals in use.


Surgical soils also present a challenge for temperature monitoring. If instruments with residual blood are placed into sinks or sonics with solutions near 120 degrees F (50 degrees C) this will denature or “cook” the proteins, as you may see at home when clear egg whites turn white upon cooking. The blood soils stick and adhere more tightly leading to cleaning failures.


This issue may not be common in sinks as technicians will notice higher temperatures during manual cleaning. It is a hidden problem in the ultrasonic cleaning tank as the cleaning solution may gradually overheat with repeated cycles. This is another good reason to monitor water temperatures in the ultrasonic and change ultrasonic cleaning solutions frequently.