How do I clean my stethoscope?

Have you ever wondered just how easily your stethoscope can acquire bacteria? Well, the answer to that is: very easily. This is can be quite an issue when you are in the medical field, since bacteria is a complete no-no when it comes to medicine (obviously).

Hygiene is of the utmost importance when you are a medical professional. By regularly cleaning and disinfecting you are minimising the risks of transferring contaminating germs, bacteria and/or virus from one patient to another. Many medical professionals do not realise how easily bacteria can build up in and around the stethoscope’s diaphragm. When you keep your stethoscope clean, you ensure your safety as well as your patient’s safety.

Before you start cleaning your stethoscope, it is important for you to remember that the stethoscope s composed of different materials, and thus, you will require different cleaning agents suited for the different parts. Many stethoscope brands offer you a user manual to make sure you are able to clean your stethoscope appropriately. Even the best of the best stethoscope can get ruined easily if you are not able to take proper care of it.

What materials do I need in order to clean my stethoscope?

Before you start the cleaning and disinfecting process, you should have the following items on hand:

  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton swaps
  • Paper towels (or rags)
  • Soap (mild is preferred)
  • Water
  • 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol (you can either use the solution or the wipes)
  • A large bowl

How do I go about cleaning my stethoscope?

As mentioned earlier, different parts of the stethoscope require a different cleaning process. Hence, it is best to divide up your work to different parts.

Let’s start with the chest piece; this includes the diaphragm and the bell. The diaphragm is the part of the stethoscope which acquires bacteria quite quickly, and hence if not cleaned properly, can easily lead to infections. Even if you are not able to clean the entire stethoscope every day, you should be quite vigilant about cleaning this part of your stethoscope.

  • Take a cotton ball and soak it in the 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol (or you can take the wipes)
  • With the help of the cotton ball (or wipe) gently rub the bell and diaphragm
  • Make sure that you keep both of these parts wet for a minimum of 10 seconds
  • Wipe off the solution and ensure that they dry properly
  • For areas that are difficult to reach such as the area which is around the stem, you can make sue of a cotton swab which has been soaked in the 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol Solution

Moving on to the tubing; this is the part which is most commonly composed of PVC. In order to properly clean your tubing, you may follow the steps given below:

  • Take a paper towel or a rag
  • Soak it in soapy water (made soapy with the use of a mild soap)
  • Take the soaked rag or paper towel and wipe down your tubing
  • After you have done so, take another paper towel or a rag to wipe of the water and ensure that the tubing has dried properly

The headset can be cleaned easily and quickly. To do so you can:

  • Take a cotton ball and soak it in rubbing alcohol (or you can use wipes)
  • Gently place the headset between the two ends of the cotton ball or wipe and move upwards
  • Wipe it off with a dry cotton ball if you find it necessary
  • Ensure that it is dry.

Finally, we come to the ear tips. These areas can also become dirty very quickly. For a quick clean up you can simply use a cotton swab (soaked in rubbing alcohol, of course) to clean the inside of your ear tips. But for a more thorough cleaning you can:

  • Remove the ear tips from the stethoscope; most stethoscopes have ear tips that can be easily removed, so you can give them a thorough cleaning
  • Use a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol to reach all of the crevices in and around the ear tip

By using rubbing alcohol to clean your stethoscope, you are able to ensure that your stethoscope remains free of any contaminants.

What should I keep in mind before I start cleaning my stethoscope?

There are a few important points that you should keep in mind before you being to clean your stethoscope:

  • to disinfect your stethoscope you should only use a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution
  • do not completely immerse your stethoscope in water or any other solution since this can get the liquid to get trapped in some parts of the stethoscope and damage it
  • ensure that you only use soap and water to clean the tubing since using harsh solutions can cause it to become sticky

Whether you have an expensive or a cheap stethoscope, it important to make sure that you take out a few minutes out of your busy schedule to keep it clean. This will ensure that your stethoscope is able to serve you well for a long time.

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