The stethoscope is an instrument that is used routinely by health care professionals. Unfortunately, the stethoscope is a common vehicle for infectious disease transmission.
Particularly, it is easy to transfer microbes from a sick person to the stethoscope and then to another person or vice versa.
Therefore, cleaning the stethoscope between patients is imperative. The stethoscope should be cleaned from time to time not only to remove the micro-organisms but also to extend the life span of the instrument.
If you work in the medical field you need to wipe down your stethoscope between patients.
In fact, it is important to wipe down your stethoscope before and after use for each patient. The last thing you want is to carry the microbes from one patient and transfer it to another or worse still bring an unsanitary stethoscope to your home or family.
Items you need to Clean a Stethoscope
To keep your stethoscope clean and shiny you need the following items:
- Chlorhexidine solution or 70% Isopropyl rubbing alcohol wipes/solution
- Cleaning bowl
- Mild soap and water
- Rag or paper towels
- Cotton balls
- Cotton swabs
How to Clean the Stethoscope Tubing
Since most stethoscope tubing are made out of polyvinylchloride PVC, it may become hard when exposed to the lipid on the human skin. Also when the tubing is worn around the neck it makes the tubing stiffen over time. Constant cleaning and proper care of the tubing will extend the life. To properly clean the stethoscope tubing without damaging it, use only soap and lukewarm water. Do not use rubbing alcohol as this can damage the tubing by slowly disintegrating the material.
To clean the stethoscope tubing:
- Have a lukewarm soapy water in a bowl and a rag/paper towel ready
- Soak the rag/paper towel or rag in soapy water
- wipe down the tubing until it is clean
- Use another rag or paper towel to dry the tubing
How to Clean the Chestpiece of the Stethoscope
The chestpiece (the bell and diaphragm) is one of the parts of the stethoscope that comes in contact with the patient hence it should be cleaned often.
To clean the chestpiece of your stethoscope:
- Soak a cotton ball in chlorhexidine solution or 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol solution (you can use just the alcohol pads as well)
- Wipe the entire chestpiece from front to back.
- Wait at least ten seconds before drying
- For hard to reach areas (e.g stem) soak an alcohol swab in the chlorhexidine or rubbing alcohol solution and clean in a turning motion.
How to Clean the Headset of your Stethoscope
To clean the headset of your stethoscope:
- Use an chlorhexidine or alcohol solution pad or solution to clean around the headset in upward and downward strokes.
- Dry as needed.
How to Clean the Eartips of your Stethoscope
Eartips is another part of the stethoscope that gets dirty easily due to contact with the cerumen wax from the ears.
To clean the eartips of your stethoscope:
- Use a cotton swab and soak it into a chlorhexidine or alcohol solution
- Clean in a twisting motion
- You can also remove the eartips completely and clean underneath and around it.
Tip on How to make Your Stethoscope Last for a Lifetime
Correct care and cleaning of your stethoscope will extend its lifespan and ensure its optimum performance.
1. To prevent scratches and scuff marks
When cleaning your stethoscope, avoid using abrasive cleaning supplies to clean a stethoscope as this can increase scratches on your instrument.
Additionally, do not throw out the box of your stethoscope after purchasing. Save it and use it ito store your stethoscope.
If you have already thrown out the box of your stethoscope, you can still store your stethoscope in an unused kit or backpack to prevent it from being scratched.
2. Consider Using Stethoscope Covers
If you want to protect your stethoscope from any stains or marks, you can use disposable stethoscope covers. They are usually designed for single use, after which you can dispose them.
They are made of very thin, noiseless plastic, so you do not have to worry about hearing them move when you listen to bodily sounds.
Most stethoscope covers are available in variety of styles and they are usually made to protect the diaphragm, bell and the tubing.
3. Disinfecting your stethoscope properly
Cleaning the stethoscopes between patient’s is highly recommended. Disinfect or wipe down your stethoscope between patients with a chlorhexidine solution because studies show that it is more effective in disinfecting equipments for a longer time and it kills more microbes including viruses, fungi and bacteria.
However, if you do not have access to chlorhexidine solution you can use 70% isopropyl alcohol wipes or solution.
Avoid using a hand sanitizer as a cleaning agent as there are additives that may damage parts of the stethoscope. For the tube cleaning, use soap and water only.
4. Removing Ink Stains and stain marks
To remove ink stains from your stethoscope, use hydrogen peroxide and a cotton pad and the stain should come off.
If you do not have hydrogen peroxide use a disinfectant solution such as chlorhexidine or 70% rubbing alcohol and that should do the trick as well as.
5. Do not Immerse your Stethoscope in Liquid or Solution
It is important not to immerse the stethoscope in any liquid or subject it to any sterilisation process as this can seriously cause damage to it.
6. Keep your stethoscope away from Harsh Environments
To promote the shelf life of your stethoscope it is important to avoid extreme hot and cold temperatures, oils or solvents as they can wear out your stethoscope and damage it.
7. Always Wipe down your stethoscope before and after use
starting at the earpieces (which helps prevent the spread of ear infections among the staff), continuing down the tubing, and ending around the bell and diaphragm.
Take the diaphragm apart to remove dust, lint, or debris and be sure to dry all the parts properly before reassembling it.
8. Wear a Shirt with a Collar
Most health care professionals wear their stethoscope around their neck and by doing so they expose the tubing to lipids from their skin.
Since most stethoscopes have tubing that are made from PVC, continual exposure can damage the tubing and reduce the shelf life.
Hence, if you must wear your stethoscope around your neck, it is recommended to wear a shirt that has a collar that way the stethoscope stays on the collar instead of your neck.
If you have any feedback, questions or concerns about this article. I would love to hear from you. Kindly leave your comments in the comments section below.
Thank you for reading!