Removing Surgical Instrument Stains
Yellow-brown to dark-brown stains or spots on surgical stainless steel instruments are frequently mistaken for rust. These residue deposits (stains or spots arranged in groups or along edges or in crevices) are usually the instrument being exposed to result of high chloride content. They will lead to pitting of the surgical instrument surface if not removed. (see Avoiding High Levels of Chloride below) Excessively hard water can contain high levels of salt sufficient to cause stains or spots that appear as rust. Boilers used to generate the steam for steam sterilizers, if not cleaned properly, will produce contaminated steam which can deposit minerals onto instruments during the sterilization process.
Use cleaning agents containing "Nonionic Surfactants" whenever possible.
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Virtually all manufacturers of surgical instruments, rigid scopes, flexible scopes, and instrument containers recommend the use of neutral pH Cleaning Concentrates. Generic Example of this recommendation: Do not use high acidic (pH <4) or high alkaline (pH >10) products for disinfection or cleaning, since these can corrode metal, cause discoloration or stress fractures. Do not use abrasive pads or abrasive Cleaning Concentrates , which will scratch the surface allowing dirt and water deposits to collect. Abrasive cleaning will remove the protective passive layer. Do not use Cleaning Concentrates with high concentrations of chlorine bleach to clean or disinfect stainless steel instruments, as pitting will occur. Never use bleach to clean any surgical instruments. The high pH of bleach causes surface deposits of brown stains and might even corrode the instrument. Even high quality stainless steel is not impervious to an acidic bleach solution. Sort instruments by similar metal for subsequent processing so that electrolytic deposition (galvanic corrosion) due to contact between dissimilar metals will not occur.
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