The SPD Detective: Finding Clues in Chemical Labels - Part 1


It’s time to be a Sterile Processing Detective! Although chemical labels are not as fun to read as a good mystery novel, there are plenty of clues to follow for safe and correct use.


Detergents have minimal regulation in the U.S. as an FDA Class 1 Medical Device so the manufacturer has more leeway on label formatting and content. The product name may offer clues such as “Enzymatic” or “Neutral”. Use other sources including the product Safety Data Sheet to determine appropriate use.


An important clue on detergent chemical labels will help answer a question frequently posed by surveyors: “What is the IFU (instructions) for this detergent?” The surveyor may want to know if the technician can state the correct dosing, contact/soak time and temperature.


For most medical grade instrument detergents, the product label is the primary IFU / instruction resource. The chemical manufacturer should state basic instructions on the product label including dosing and correct temperature. If this vital information is minimal or missing, contact the manufacturer immediately before starting use of the product.


It may not be practical to read the tiny print on a label during a shift, so after a detergent is adopted for use, the label and technical guides from the manufacturer may be used and referenced for enlarged laminated wall charts and staff training.

With training and return demonstrations, technicians will feel confident using chemicals while avoiding the common error of referring to products as the “blue stuff”.