Germs from a person may be found on any object the person touched or on equipment that was used during their care. Some germs can live up to 5 months on a dry surface.
Germs on any surface can pass to you or another person. This is why it is important to disinfect supplies and equipment.
To disinfect something means to clean it to destroy germs. Disinfectants are the cleaning solutions that are used to disinfect. Disinfecting supplies and equipment help prevent the spread of germs.
Follow your workplace policies on how to clean supplies and equipment.
Disinfecting Supplies and Equipment
Start by wearing the right personal protective equipment (PPE). Your workplace has a policy or guidelines on what to wear in different situations. This includes gloves and, when needed, a gown, shoe covers, and a mask. Always wash your hands before putting on gloves and after taking them off.
Catheters or tubes that go into blood vessels are either:
- Used only one time and then thrown away
- Sterilized so they can be used again
Clean reusable supplies, such as tubes like endoscopes, with an approved cleaning solution and procedure before they are used again.
For equipment that touches only healthy skin, such as blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes:
- Do not use on one person and then another person.
- Clean with a light or medium-level cleaning solution between uses with different people.
Use cleaning solutions approved by your workplace. Choosing the correct one is based on:
- The type of equipment and supplies you are cleaning
- The type of germs you are destroying
Read and follow directions carefully for each solution. You may need to allow the disinfectant to dry on the equipment for a set period of time before rinsing it off.
Calfee DP. Prevention and control of health care-associated infections. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 266.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Disinfection and sterilization. www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/index.html. Updated May 24, 2019. Accessed December 22, 2021.
Quinn MM, Henneberger PK; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), et al. Cleaning and disinfecting environmental surfaces in health care: toward an integrated framework for infection and occupational illness prevention. Am J Infection Control. 2015;43(5):424-434. PMID: 25792102 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25792102/.
Review Date 10/24/2021
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.