The task of cleaning a veterinarian's tools often falls on the vet assistant. The job is important in preventing cross contamination between animals, in ensuring the tools remain in pristine condition, and in keeping the tools organized and in good working order for the next patient. The actual process involves a series of steps meant to clean, sterilize and lubricate the instruments.
As soon as the procedure is over, you should rinse the tools clean of blood and tissue. Failure to rinse the tools in clear water promptly can lead to staining and rusting. Avoid using dish soap, bleach or saline because these products can corrode the stainless steel finish. Not only are stained and rusted tools aesthetically unappealing to pet owners, the instruments may fail to work properly in the future. The cost of replacing rusted vet tools can be considerable, especially for a clinic that is already running on a tight budget.
Ultrasonic or Neutral pH Cleanser
Once you rinse the debris off, the tools should be washed either in a neutral pH cleanser or in an ultrasonic machine. An ultrasonic machine uses high-frequency sound waves to clean minute particles out of those hard-to-reach places in tools, such as hinges. Whether you are washing the tools by hand or in the ultrasonic machine, try to space the instruments out so they don't rub or vibrate together and scratch the finishes.
Dry and Lubricate
Dry the instruments by placing them on a towel and blotting them dry with another towel. As soon as they are dry, spray a lubricant designed for surgical instruments on each item with movable parts. This is also a good time to make sure each instrument is in good working order. Make sure that blades aren't chipped, and that hinged tools open and close smoothly. You can set tools in poor condition aside to be repaired or replaced.
Sterilize or Disinfect.
You should sterilize instruments before the vet uses them on a new patient. Veterinarians use either an autoclave or a cold sterilization process to avoid cross contamination from one animal to the next. In both processes, the hinged tools are typically left in an open position. An autoclave is a device that uses heat to kill organisms. Cold sterilization requires a long-term process of submerging the instruments in a chemical solution and is considered more of a disinfecting process than a true sterilization. Follow manufacturer instructions in determining which process is recommended for each instrument.