How to Disinfect a Stethoscope from COVID-19

Now more than ever, sterilising your stethoscope between patients is a step you cannot miss. Stethoscopes come into direct contact with every patient you examine, and are very likely to be the source of patient-to-patient COVID-19 infection if not disinfected after each contact.

So how do you clean your stethoscope to prevent COVID-19 transmission? Which sterilizing agents definitely kill COVID-19? Firstly, here are a few ways you should certainly NOT clean or sterilize a stethoscope:

  1. DO NOT IMMERSE OR SOAK YOUR STETHOSCOPE IN ANY LIQUID
    Liquid can enter the tubes and chestpieces and affect its performance both in the short and longer term. Once liquid enters the stethoscope it can also be difficult to dry and promote further bacterial growth.

  2. DO NOT USE HAND SANITIZER GEL
    Many hand gel sanitizers contain additives or solvents that can damage parts of the stethoscope and accelerate degradation.

  3. DO NOT USE HEAT STERILIZATION METHODS
    This includes autoclave sterilizers and any boiling sterilization methods. Autoclave machines subject equipment to pressurised steam at 121 °C (250 °F) and several parts of the stethoscope can degrade when exposed to such high temperatures for prolonged periods.

  4. DO NOT USE OIL BASED CLEANING SOLVENTS
    Oil-based cleaning solvents slowly degrade stethoscope tubing, especially stethoscope tubes made from natural rubber latex. Oils released from human skin can likewise affect the integrity of stethoscope tubing, so wearning your stethoscope over a collar rather than on direct skin can prolong its life and prevent discoloring.

Now that we know what not to do, what can you actually use to sterilise a stethoscope without causing any damage?

Sterilizing agents that kill COVID-19 virus without damaging your stethoscope:

  1. 70% ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL WIPES

These are probably the most common kind of disinfect wipes available, and are usually cheap and cheerful. Just remember to use enough wipes so that the surface of the stethoscope is visibly wet after wiped and allowed to air dry.

2. 2% CHLORHEXIDINE WIPES

These types of disinfecting wipes are most commonly used to prepare the skin before taking blood or another procedure, but can also be used to sterilise a stethoscope in a pinch, as they are commonly available in healthcare settings.

3. Clinell Universal Wipes

Another type of wipe commonly availble in healthcare settings that are safe to use on stethoscopes and effective at killing COVID-19 virus.


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