Time & Chemicals for Sterile Processing


“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” This quote from Michael Altshuler reminds us that time is precious, especially during a busy workday. Cleaning chemicals can save time and increase productivity by keeping a few basic issues in mind.


Contact or dwell time is the time a chemical must be visibly wet on surfaces or a minimum time period for best cleaning action during soaking or wash cycles. In the case of disinfectants, the minimum contact time is determined by lab testing and must be followed exactly for germicidal action. For detergents, contact or soak time is less exact but should be supported by objective cleaning and soil removal tests. Recommended contact time is usually listed on product labels.


A modest delay may benefit final cleaning results. Enzymatic detergents used for soaking or ultrasonic cleaning demonstrate their best overall cleaning value during longer contact times. After verifying correct dosing and temperature, the technician is free for other tasks. Meanwhile, organic enzymes provide passive cleaning action, breaking down soils with little or no scrubbing over a five to fifteen minute contact time.


Time works against instrument preservation if soaking frequently extends over one hour. In overnight clinical services contaminated items may be left in pans of water and detergent for hours. Water is highly corrosive and may overcome anti-corrosive agents. This problem may be avoided by using high quality enzymatic sprays with anti-corrosives that eliminate water soaking.