How to Clean, Disinfect & Sterilize Medical Equipment

Some medical equipment is disposable, like gloves and needles, but it is not financially feasible to dispose of more expensive medical equipment between uses. To prevent the spread of disease between patients, reusable medical equipment must always be cleaned, disinfected and sterilised before it can be used again. Once properly sterilised, the medical equipment will be completely free of microscopic viruses and bacteria.

Put on a clean pair of disposable latex gloves. You must wear protective gloves whenever handling dirty medical equipment.

Remove any visible contaminants using a cotton swap dipped in rubbing alcohol. If you spend just a few minutes using a cotton swab to clean large, visible organic matter or blood stains early on, it will make it much easier for the disinfectant and sterilisation equipment to do its job in the next steps.

Place the contaminated equipment into an ultrasonic bath filled with disinfectant solution. Close the lid and turn on the ultrasonic bath. Ultrasonic baths use powerful ultrasonic waves to scrub equipment clean, removing even the smallest quantities of blood, saliva or other contaminants.

Remove the equipment from the ultrasonic machine after about 15 minutes.

Rinse the equipment using clean water. If the disinfectant ultrasonic solution is not rinsed off the medical tools, the solution can discolour the equipment over time. The discolouration is not harmful, but is unsightly.

Dry the equipment using disposable paper towels.

Place the equipment into self-sealing autoclave bags, which are strong, pressurised, steam-heated vessel, as for laboratory experiments, sterilisation or cooking.


Place the bagged equipment into an autoclave machine, a device to sterilise equipment and supplies by subjecting them to high pressure steam at 49.4 degrees C centigrade or more, typically for 15 to 20 minutes depending on the size of the load and the contents. According to the Medical Supplies and Equipment Company, autoclave sterilisation is the best method available for sterilising medical equipment. Once cleaned and disinfected, autoclave sterilisation will ensure complete obliteration of any remaining germs.

Turn on the autoclave machine.

Remove the medical tools once the machine has gone through its entire operation and cool-down period. Do not remove tools from the self-sealing bags until immediately before use. During the autoclave cleaning process, the bags become vacuum sealed. If you open the bags, you risk exposing the tools to airborne contaminants.


Never remove medical tools from an autoclave before the cool-down timer goes off. Autoclaves use extremely hot steam to kill bacteria, and removing the medical equipment before the end of the cool-down period can cause severe burns.

Things You'll Need

  • Latex gloves
  • Cotton swabs
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Ultrasonic bath
  • Disinfectant ultrasonic solution
  • Self-sealing autoclave bags
  • Autoclave
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About the Author

Richard Kalinowski began writing professionally in 2006. He also works as a website programmer and graphic designer for several clients. Kalinowski holds a Master of Fine Arts from Goddard College and a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.