How to choose an appropriate detergent for your surgical equipment

It is necessary to understand how detergents work and what their properties and/or characteristics are to learn what's best for your surgical equipment.

The key aspect for choosing a good detergent for manual washing is to understand how a detergent works in the washing process, it is necessary to understand how they work and what their properties and/or characteristics are.

We can classify them on the basis of:

1. Chemical Action

Detergents are differentiated by their composition (depending on the type of properties they possess) and by their pH. The pH will have an influence on improving the effectiveness as long as it is antagonistic to the pH of the substance with which it is going to be confronted.

Based on this concept, we find detergents:

ALKALINE, used for cleaning protein residues and organic substances with an acid pH.

ACIDS, for alkaline substances and residues produced by urine, salts and limestone minerals.

NEUTRAL, for mixed use, without a specific purpose. Also used as household detergents.

2. Type of waste

Depending on the type of waste that we have to eliminate, we will have to use a certain type of detergent.

ORGANIC, fats, proteins, blood, feces, mucus...

INORGANIC, salt and mineral deposits, urine...

Generally, the residues of the sanitary instruments are usually of organic type and require an enzymatic detergent for their manual washing.

3. Its composition

Depending on the function for which they have been developed, they may contain:

SURFACTANTS, they act by reducing the surface tension of water, which favors the dissolution of fats and oils.

ALKALINE SUBSTANCES, improve the elimination of fats and greases

BASIC COMPONENTS, sequestering calcium and magnesium salts.

CORROSION INHIBITORS, which help prevent aluminum deterioration.

BIOCIDES, only used in special processes. Disinfectant substances such as hydrogen peroxide, peracetic acid and ammonium are added to enhance thermal disinfection when it cannot be carried out at more than 60ºC.

ENZYMES are protein molecules whose function is to facilitate or accelerate most of the chemical reactions that take place in the cells. They can break down large molecules of proteins, fats and starch into small catabolites, which can be diluted in water. They are very effective in the elimination of organic body waste and blood.

4. Classification

TENSIOACTIVES, are substances that act by reducing the surface tension of water, i.e., they allow a better contact of water with the surface of the objects.

ENZYMATIC, they contain proteolytic enzymes that dissolve organic residues, by means of hydrolysis they provoke their breakdown and decomposition.

Qualities of a Good Detergent

When choosing a good detergent, it is very important to take into account the following points:

  • Compatibility with the materials, mainly by the absence of salts that make it corrosive for the material.

  • Low foaming, the foam not only prevents the contact of the active substances of detergents and disinfectants on the material, but also hinders the thermal transmission of heat on these, as well as its solvent and germicidal action.

  • Easy rinsing, detergent residues generate corrosion and/or stains on the instruments.

  • Biodegradable, phosphate-free.

Liquid detergents have more advantages over powder detergents:

  • Correct and easy dosage

  • Valid for manual and automatic washing

  • The liquid state ensures that the solubility of its components is immediate and complete.


Jensen Instrument Technologies is a long-established company distributing precision surgical instrumentation across Australia and New Zealand. Our company specialises in the supply of maintenance of precision mechanical, optical and power surgical instruments for surgical theatres. Learn more about us here.