How to clean a stethoscope

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Buying a stethoscope is a rite of passage for any new healthcare professional. Unfortunately, some of the higher-end stethoscopes can be pretty expensive, and they are something that you will use regularly. So it is always in your best interest to take care of it and get into the habit of stethoscope cleaning as soon as possible.

What is a stethoscope?

The stethoscope was invented in 1816 as a medical device that can listen to sounds coming from the human body. Since then, the basic design has remained relatively similar (except for electronic stethoscopes).

Most analog stethoscopes are binaural, which means that there is a separate tube for each ear. The tubes are made from flexible rubber, and they conduct sounds that come from the chest piece placed on the patient.

There are two types of chest pieces: bell-shaped and open-ended, which is used to listen to lower-pitched sounds and a flat semi-rigid disk for listening to higher-pitched sounds. For correct diagnosis of heart conditions, both types of chest pieces are often needed, so many stethoscopes come with both attached. The sound is switched between the two via a valve.

Electronic stethoscopes

Electronic stethoscopes have become more prevalent in recent years. They can overcome any difficulties with hearing quiet sounds by amplifying the sound waves from the chest piece and delivering these signals to the earpieces.

Because of their ability to amplify sound, electronic stethoscopes can help make diagnoses more accurate.

Why do I need to clean my stethoscope?

There are two main reasons for cleaning a stethoscope: infection control and stethoscope maintenance.

Cleaning your stethoscope will help maintain it and prevent the degradation of the materials. A stethoscope should last you for many years, but it won’t last as long if you don’t take proper care of it.

Infection prevention is perhaps a more immediately pressing matter, especially in light of recent events. As a result, many studies have been conducted that look at stethoscopes as a medium of transmission for infection and disease.

One study found that 87% of stethoscopes were contaminated with various pathogens, including Gram-positive cocci, Gram-positive and negative bacilli, yeasts, and fungi.

And there has been a push by the scientific community for greater education about stethoscope hygiene, including disinfection and disease control, to reduce the risk of stethoscopes being a vector for infection.

Disease control is a vital element in healthcare, so there is such a focus on the importance of hand hygiene, sterilization, and other methods of reducing infection transmission.

For various reasons, however, stethoscope hygiene is often neglected compared to these other infection control hygiene methods.

However, the research shows that stethoscopes are highly likely to contain a wide range of pathogens. And when you consider that the chest piece will inevitably touch the bare skin of many patients every day, it becomes clear that infection control is essential.

A clean stethoscope is far less likely to transmit disease from patient to patient and between patient and healthcare provider.

How not to clean your stethoscope

We know that a straightforward disinfection practice is essential for stethoscopes. With that being said, it is essential to remember that stethoscopes (and especially electronic stethoscopes) are delicate pieces of medical equipment. The wrong cleaning methods can cause more damage than they prevent and may lead to a stethoscope not lasting for as long as possible.

Do not sterilize it

It is tempting to sterilize as a method of stethoscope disinfection, but this isn’t appropriate.

Most sterilization methods use harsh and abrasive chemicals, which will damage some of the elements of the stethoscope.

If these are used on the tubing, it can lead to stickiness, stiffness, and even cracking.

Do not use hand sanitizer

The hand sanitizer is sitting right there, and it helps with infection prevention, so it is easy enough to reach for it. Like other sterilization methods, however, hand sanitizer contains many harsh and abrasive additives that can damage your stethoscope more than they promote stethoscope hygiene.

Do not immerse in water

Stethoscopes are not waterproof. If you immerse your stethoscope in water to clean it, there is a perfect chance that you will damage it beyond repair.

How to clean your stethoscope the right way

Because your stethoscope is made of various materials, there are different methods that you should use for each piece. When you clean your stethoscope, make sure that your hands are clean and working on a sterilized surface.

The best cleaning method is for the stethoscope tubing, wiping it down with hot soapy water. Unfortunately, the tubing is the part of the stethoscope that is most often neglected when it comes to cleaning, but even though it isn’t in contact with you or the patient, it can still be a vector of disease transmission.

Many people opt for soapy water or 70% isopropyl alcohol solution wipes for the earpieces and chest pieces. Both can be effective, but they aren’t designed explicitly for stethoscope cleaning.

Stethoscope cleaning products

Praveni Stethoscope Cleaner

Praveni Stethoscope Cleaner
  • Renews and revitalizes vinyl, rubber and plastic. Will not cause colors to bleed
  • Cleans surfaces of contaminants. Does not leave treated surfaces feeling tacky, oily or greasy
  • Enhances deep, rich look while minimizing gloss. Will not attract dust

Last update on 2022-10-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This cleaner is specifically designed for rubber or plastic tubing. It can undo some of the damage done by cleaning the tubing with harsh chemicals, such as hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes, UV light, and skin oils.

It will also add a protective coating that helps prevent cracking and other damage in the future, and it can help restore color to the rubber or flexible plastic.

What do users think?

Praveni Stethoscope Cleaner has an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with most reviews being positive. Users were pleased with its ability to reduce stickiness and restore color.

However, some users found that it may not completely get rid of stiffness and that not all stains were removed.

Is it worth it?

Praveni Stethoscope Cleaner won’t be enough to clean all of your stethoscope parts and shouldn’t be used with the earpieces or chest piece, so you will need to buy other products.

Overall, however, it is a product that any health care worker or medical student should have in their arsenal. The tubing is the most sensitive part of the stethoscope to harsh cleaning methods, and this cleaner can help restore any previous damage and prevent any damage from happening in the future.

Replacement tubing is expensive, and Praveni Stethoscope Cleaner might be just the thing that helps your tubing last for as long as it should.

Micro-Scientific Opti-Cide Max Disinfecting Wipes

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Micro-Scientific Opti-Cide Max Disinfecting Wipes
  • DISINFECTANT AND CLEANER – Kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria when used as directed
  • POWERFUL SCRUBBING DISINFECTANT WIPE – Opti-Cide MAX disinfectant wipes have a powerful scrubbing...
  • FOR HOSPITAL AND HOME USE - Safe on hard, non-porous surfaces, including counters, tubs, tile,...
  • MEDICAL GRADE DISINFECTANT - EPA REGISTERED - A true broad spectrum disinfectant that is...
  • KILLS TESTED ORGANISMS IN 30 SECONDS TO 1 MINUTE - Kills Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV-1),...

Last update on 2022-10-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

These disinfectant wipes are the best for cleaning the earpieces and chest piece of your stethoscope. They contain a broad-spectrum disinfectant that is medical grade and EPA registered, which is a bactericide, fungicide, virucide, and a tuberculocidal.

What do users think?

These wipes have an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon. However, many users are happy with the convenience these wipes bring to clean their medical equipment and are reassured by the wipes on the EPA list.

Some users, however, have reported leaking disinfectant in the packaging.

Are they worth it?

If you are looking for a powerful wipe that is safe for your stethoscope and will kill bacteria, viruses, fungi, and tuberculosis, these will do the job.

They are great for cleaning on the go because of their small size so that you can disinfect the most critical parts of your stethoscope in between patients for infection prevention.

CaviWipes – Cavicide Germicidal Cleaner Wipes

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Last update on 2022-10-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

These disinfectant wipes are tubuerculocidal, bactericidal, and fungicidal. They are EPA-registered and are a larger and more sturdy wipe than the Micro-Scientific disinfectant wipes.

What do users think?

These wipes have an average of 4.8 stars out of 5 on Amazon. Many users were impressed with the sturdiness of the wipes and how well they work for disinfecting a variety of different surfaces.

Some users report that the wipes were dried out on delivery, however.

Are they worth it?

The benefit of these wipes over the Micro-Scientific wipes because they are large enough to disinfect a greater range of surfaces than just your stethoscope. So if you are looking for a wipe that can serve multiple disinfection purposes because you don’t want to deal with multiple wipe packets, these could be a good option.

To wrap up

Your stethoscope is something that you will use every single day, and it is a piece of medical equipment that needs to be taken care of properly. Of course, the most pressing reason for this is disease control, which is why you should at the very least disinfect the chest piece between patients using a medical-grade wipe.

Proper maintenance is another issue that can be controlled with regular cleaning. This is especially true of the tubing, which can quickly degrade when it isn’t cleaned or when it is cleaned using the wrong products.

Getting into the habit of cleaning your stethoscope using the correct products and methods for each element will help protect you and your patients from infection. It will also help your stethoscope to last longer.

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