How to Clean Your Stethoscope

A dirty stethoscope will not allow for accurate readings to be taken, which could be detrimental to the patient’s health. This blog post will discuss how you should clean your stethoscope, as well as provide some general tips on how to avoid getting it dirty in the first place! With that said, do you know what is the perfect way to clean your stethoscope?

Using prep packs containing 70% isopropyl alcohol solution disinfects the stethoscope from pathogens. You have to wipe every part of the equipment that comes into contact with the patient. For tunable diaphragms, you can also utilize soapy water to clean after removing it from the chest piece. 

Rubbing different parts of the Stethoscope with alcohol wipes might be the ideal thing you need to do after every assessment. However, you should also pay attention to the deep cleaning of multiple parts of the equipment to get rid of stubborn residue and to maintain the device in perfect order. 

The following sections of the guide provide detailed information on how to clean different parts of the stethoscope properly to cancel any chance of patient-to-patient contamination.

How to Clean Your Stethoscope Ear Pieces?

Compared to other components of the stethoscope, cleaning the ear tips is relatively straightforward. While this might not be the ideal cleaning practice after every patient’s assessment, no one can deny its importance when deep cleaning the stethoscope.

Step 1:Remove The Ear Tips From The Ear Tubes 

In the first step, you will remove the ear tips from the ear tubes for cleaning. This step does not involve any complications as most earpieces have removable ear tips.

Step 2: Use Alcohol-dipped Cotton Swabs For Ear Tubes

After removal, you can either utilize soapy water or alcohol-dipped cotton swabs for thorough cleaning of ear tips. This thing will disinfect the desired parts within seconds. I would suggest using cotton swabs to reach narrow crevices for extensive cleaning.

As far as the headset area is concerned, you can use some alcohol-soaked cotton balls to get the job done properly.

Step 3: Dry Stethoscope Properly

After extensive cleaning of multiple parts of the earpieces, it’s time to dry them before you reassemble them. I personally prefer paper towels for quicker drying of ear tips. 

After drying the tiny components, get them back to their original position for efficient functioning. However, a slight wiggling will help you fix them right into their exact positions.

How to Clean Your Stethoscope Tubing?

Tubing is one of the easiest components to clean and maintain. Follow the simple steps below.

  • Unbend it before wiping it thoroughly with the help of soapy water. 
  • Apply this water on a paper towel and start cleaning the tube by rubbing it gently for at least a minute.
  • Do not use an alcohol-based solution for cleaning the tube because it may cause stickiness and complicate the entire cleaning process. 

Using inappropriate disinfectants can destroy the tube within days. For instance, you may start noting unusual cracks and discoloring of the tube if you apply the wrong cleaning agent. 

How to Clean Your Stethoscope Diaphragm?

Along with how to clean your stethoscope tube, we also want to talk about how to keep the diaphragm in a good healthy state.  The reason why this needs particular attention is that it’s responsible for picking up sound from inside the body without distortion. 

After years of practice, I believe these are the high-risk components that can cause patient-to-patient contamination if not regularly cleaned. 

So how to clean them?

  • As far as regular cleaning is concerned, wipe the diaphragm with an alcohol wipe for 60 seconds after every assessment to get rid of germs.
  • For deep cleaning, you will have to remove the diaphragm and then thoroughly clean it with soapy water or alcohol. 
  • Moreover, some doctors prefer alcohol prep pads for extensive cleaning of the diaphragm.

Cleaning  Electronic Stethoscope

The cleaning technique discussed above might not be the ideal choice for electronic or specialized stethoscope devices.

 I would suggest you follow the cleaning instructions provided by the manufacturer in that case. 

Some Useful Tips for Perfect Stethoscope Cleaning

  • When you are cleaning your stethoscope, make sure that you dry it properly before reassembling the pieces. If any moisture remains on the tubes, it can accumulate and breed bacteria. 
  • Many types of bacteria can’t reproduce and grow on dry surfaces. That is why never forget to thoroughly dry the entire component set before assembling them. This will ensure enhanced protection against pathogens and other disease-causing agents.
  • To ensure proper drying, you can let it air dry before you start reassembling it. Additionally, some practitioners and nurses prefer paper towels for faster drying. 

Cleaning a Stethoscope: What to Avoid?

There are certain things that you CANNOT do while you attempt to clean your stethoscope. Take note of the following things:

  • Never use hand sanitizer to clean different components of your stethoscope. They can contain harmful ingredients that have the potential to damage multiple components, including the diaphragm and tubing.
  • Sterilization of the stethoscope is only favorable when you want to destroy it. As the equipment is made of multiple fragile components, using the sterilization process for cleaning can lead to permanent damage to its parts.
  • If you want your stethoscope to stay longer and accompany you for years to come, avoid its exposure to extreme temperatures, oils, and other dangerous solutions that can cause it to die.
  • Never forget to wash your hands before and after every cleaning process to avoid any possible risk of bacterial infection due to germs.
  • Never place your stethoscope on a dirty surface where dirt could stick onto it as this will make sound quality poor due to overlapping sounds at different frequencies from within the body such as bowel movement. 

Why Is Cleaning Stethoscopes Important?

How often do you clean your stethoscope? If the answer is “not very often,” then you’d better learn how! 

A clean stethoscope is a necessity for any medical professional in order to maintain high standards of hygiene. Additionally, it eliminates any chance of germs spreading due to the formation of bacterial growth on the device’s surface.

Does cleaning a stethoscope really matter?

Lots of clinicians believe that stethoscopes cannot transmit any germs as they only touch the skin. However, that is not the reality.

 A research study in 2018 found Acinetobacter and Klebsiella pneumoniae along with other germs from microbe samples taken from stethoscopes

The study also revealed that nearly 50% of doctors who participated in the study did not pay any attention to stethoscope cleaning.

Another study conducted on stethoscope contamination in the intensive care unit concluded that 71% of the stethoscope showed significant bacterial growth. A lack of attention to this part could lead to many disastrous consequences.

According to CDC, one out of every 25 patients acquires an infection while visiting a doctor. 

The problem is further escalated by the fact that only 8% of the nurses cleaned their stethoscopes, according to results yielded by a study in 2011. 

Based on the results and suggestions of numerous studies involving stethoscope contamination, clinicians should take extra care to keep their stethoscopes clean and maintained.

Conclusion

In this blog post, we’ve discussed how to clean your stethoscope to maintain a high level of hygiene and how that can affect a patient’s health. We talked about the most important parts of any stethoscope – the tube and diaphragm – and how each should be cleaned for the instrument to work properly. We hope that this blog post has been helpful, and easy-to-follow for our readers.

 

 

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Muhammad Bilal Qayyum

MBBS from Taishan Medical University and currently working in Bahawal Victoria Hospital. The blog is a great resource for both novices and experienced users when it comes to stethoscopes. As I studied and practiced, I evaluated various models on the market, which led me to become an expert in stethoscopes.

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