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There has been much debate over the effectiveness of hot water extraction carpet cleaning (aka carpet steam cleaning) versus highly misleading, advertised carpet dry cleaning methods by some carpet cleaning companies. It’s not a surprise if you have not heard of the hot water extraction procedure of carpet cleaning. Companies such as Stanley Steamer have used the more popular term of “steam cleaning” to describe this procedure.  Whether it is called carpet steam cleaning or hot /cold water extraction carpet cleaning, what you need to know is that hot water extraction is still the best and most effective carpet cleaning method on the market.

The fact most leading carpet manufacturers across the world would highly recommend you use a professional carpet steam cleaning or hot/cold water extraction carpet cleaning company for cleaning your carpets. If carpet dry cleaning was truly a better method, those manufacturers would say so.

With more than 10 years of experience on the market, ACMS, a carpet cleaning company, maintain that carpet cleaning is best achieved using hot water extraction, otherwise known as carpet steam cleaning.  Your carpet will be wet afterwards because it just received a deep, intensive, thorough carpet cleaning – which is different from what you would have received from a carpet cleaning company that practices carpet dry cleaning.

It’s scary. A neglected carpet can contain as much as four times it’s own weight in dirt. Before fitted carpets were introduced, carpets would have been taken outside at least once a year and beaten thoroughly. People would have been surprised at the dust clouds that emerged. Now with fitted carpets you can’t do that. Most houses are centrally heated so that dust mites can flourish. How many people do you know that suffer from dust mite allergies?

You’re wrong If you think that vacuuming alone can get all the dust out of the carpet. Leading test laboratory Cleaning Research International have carried out independent research studies and proved that hot water extraction carpet cleaning, carpet steam cleaning, carpet shampooing or carpet washing produces significantly superior results than vacuuming alone. Vacuuming only removes the uppermost layer of dirt. The lower layer of dirt is still stuck and as the grease and dirt get trodden deeper, it cuts the pile. The carpet is dull and the fibres are loosened.

It is an urban legend that carpet washing is bad. This is not true. Regular carpet shampooing brightens colors, remove germs and odors and extend the life of your carpet. When you use our Deep Water Extraction Carpet Cleaning System to clean your carpet, the carpet fibres are washed without wetting the backing. There is no chance of shrinking and the carpet will be dry enough to walk on in a short period of time. Carpet Steam Cleaning (aka Hot/Cold Water Extraction Carpet Cleaning) is still the best method used by professional carpet cleaning companies like us.

Air Disinfection

Disinfectant spray-fog techniques for antimicrobial control in hospital rooms has been used. This technique of spraying of disinfectants is an unsatisfactory method of decontaminating air and surfaces and is not recommended for general infection control in routine patient-care areas. Disinfectant fogging is rarely, if ever, used Singapore healthcare facilities for air and surface disinfection in patient-care areas. Methods (e.g., filtration, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, chlorine dioxide) to reduce air contamination in the healthcare setting are discussed in another guideline.


Many disinfectants are used alone or in combinations (e.g., hydrogen peroxide and peracetic acid) in the health-care setting. These include alcohols, chlorine and chlorine compounds, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, ortho-phthalaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide, iodophors, peracetic acid, phenolics, and quaternary ammonium compounds. Commercial formulations based on these chemicals are considered unique products and must be registered or cleared. In most instances, a given product is designed for a specific purpose and is to be used in a certain manner. Therefore, users should read labels carefully to ensure the correct product is selected for the intended use and applied efficiently.

Disinfectants are not interchangeable, and incorrect concentrations and inappropriate disinfectants can result in excessive costs. Because occupational diseases among cleaning personnel have been associated with use of several disinfectants (e.g., formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, and chlorine), precautions (e.g., gloves and proper ventilation) should be used to minimize exposure. Asthma and reactive airway disease can occur in sensitized persons exposed to any airborne chemical, including germicides. Clinically important asthma can occur at levels below ceiling levels regulated by OSHA. The preferred method of control is elimination of the chemical (through engineering controls or substitution) or relocation of the worker. The following overview of the performance characteristics of each provides users with sufficient information to select an appropriate disinfectant for any item and use it in the most efficient way.

Chemical Disinfectants

Alcohol Overview.

In the healthcare setting, “alcohol” refers to two water-soluble chemical compounds—ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol—that have generally underrated germicidal characteristics. FDA has not cleared any liquid chemical sterilant or high-level disinfectant with alcohol as the main active ingredient. These alcohols are rapidly bactericidal rather than bacteriostatic against vegetative forms of bacteria; they also are tuberculocidal, fungicidal, and virucidal but do not destroy bacterial spores. Their cidal activity drops sharply when diluted below 50% concentration, and the optimum bactericidal concentration is 60%–90% solutions in water (volume/volume).

Mode of Action.

The most feasible explanation for the antimicrobial action of alcohol is denaturation of proteins. This mechanism is supported by the observation that absolute ethyl alcohol, a dehydrating agent, is less bactericidal than mixtures of alcohol and water because proteins are denatured more quickly in the presence of water. Protein denaturation also is consistent with observations that alcohol destroys the dehydrogenases of Escherichia coli, and that ethyl alcohol increases the lag phase of Enterobacter aerogenes and that the lag phase effect could be reversed by adding certain amino acids. The bacteriostatic action was believed caused by inhibition of the production of metabolites essential for rapid cell division.

Microbicidal Activity.

Methyl alcohol (methanol) has the weakest bactericidal action of the alcohols and thus seldom is used in healthcare. The bactericidal activity of various concentrations of ethyl alcohol (ethanol) was examined against a variety of microorganisms in exposure periods ranging from 10 seconds to 1 hour. Pseudomonas aeruginosa was killed in 10 seconds by all concentrations of ethanol from 30% to 100% (v/v), and Serratia marcescens, E, coli and Salmonella typhosa were killed in 10 seconds by all concentrations of ethanol from 40% to 100%. The gram-positive organisms Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes were slightly more resistant, being killed in 10 seconds by ethyl alcohol concentrations of 60%–95%. Isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) was slightly more bactericidal than ethyl alcohol for E. coli and S. aureus.

Ethyl alcohol, at concentrations of 60%–80%, is a potent virucidal agent inactivating all of the lipophilic viruses (e.g., herpes, vaccinia, and influenza virus) and many hydrophilic viruses (e.g.,adenovirus, enterovirus, rhinovirus, and rotaviruses but not hepatitis A virus (HAV) or poliovirus). Isopropyl alcohol is not active against the nonlipid enteroviruses but is fully active against the lipid viruses. Studies also have demonstrated the ability of ethyl and isopropyl alcohol to inactivate the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and the herpes virus, and ethyl alcohol to inactivate human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), rotavirus, echovirus, and astrovirus.
In tests of the effect of ethyl alcohol against M. tuberculosis, 95% ethanol killed the tubercle bacilli in sputum or water suspension within 15 seconds. In 1964, Spaulding stated that alcohols were the germicide of choice for tuberculocidal activity, and they should be the standard by which all other tuberculocides are compared. For example, he compared the tuberculocidal activity of iodophor (450 ppm), a substituted phenol (3%), and isopropanol (70%/volume) using the mucin-loop test (106 M. tuberculosis per loop) and determined the contact times needed for complete destruction were 120–180 minutes, 45–60 minutes, and 5 minutes, respectively. The mucin-loop test is a severe test developed to produce long survival times. Thus, these figures should not be extrapolated to the exposure times needed when these germicides are used on medical or surgical material.
Ethyl alcohol (70%) was the most effective concentration for killing the tissue phase of Cryptococcus neoformans, Blastomyces dermatitidis, Coccidioides immitis, and Histoplasma capsulatum and the culture phases of the latter three organisms aerosolized onto various surfaces. The culture phase was more resistant to the action of ethyl alcohol and required about 20 minutes to disinfect the contaminated surface, compared with <1 minute for the tissue phase.
Isopropyl alcohol (20%) is effective in killing the cysts of Acanthamoeba culbertsoni as are chlorhexidine, hydrogen peroxide, and thimerosal.

Alcohols are not recommended for sterilizing medical and surgical materials principally because they lack sporicidal action and they cannot penetrate protein-rich materials. Fatal postoperative wound infections with Clostridium have occurred when alcohols were used to sterilize surgical instruments contaminated with bacterial spores. Alcohols have been used effectively to disinfect oral and rectal thermometers hospital pagers, scissors, and stethoscopes. Alcohols have been used to disinfect fiberoptic endoscopes, but failure of this disinfectant have lead to infection. Alcohol towelettes have been used for years to disinfect small surfaces such as rubber stoppers of multiple-dose medication vials or vaccine bottles. Furthermore, alcohol occasionally is used to disinfect external surfaces of equipment (e.g., stethoscopes, ventilators, manual ventilation bags), CPR manikins, ultrasound instruments or medication preparation areas. Two studies demonstrated the effectiveness of 70% isopropyl alcohol to disinfect reusable transducer heads in a controlled environment. In contrast, three bloodstream infection outbreaks have been described when alcohol was used to disinfect transducer heads in an intensive-care setting.
The documented shortcomings of alcohols on equipment are that they damage the shellac mountings of lensed instruments, tend to swell and harden rubber and certain plastic tubing after prolonged and repeated use, bleach rubber and plastic tiles and damage tonometer tips (by deterioration of the glue) after the equivalent of 1 working year of routine use. Tonometer biprisms soaked in alcohol for 4 days developed rough front surfaces that potentially could cause corneal damage; this appeared to be caused by weakening of the cementing substances used to fabricate the biprisms. Corneal opacification has been reported when tonometer tips were swabbed with alcohol immediately before measurement of intraocular pressure. Alcohols are flammable and consequently must be stored in a cool, well-ventilated area. They also evaporate rapidly, making extended exposure time difficult to achieve unless the items are immersed.

Chlorine and Chlorine Compounds

Hypochlorites, the most widely used of the chlorine disinfectants, are available as liquid (e.g., sodium hypochlorite) or solid (e.g., calcium hypochlorite). The most prevalent chlorine products in the United States are aqueous solutions of 5.25%–6.15% sodium hypochlorite, usually called household bleach. They have a broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity, do not leave toxic residues, are unaffected by water hardness, are inexpensive and fast acting, remove dried or fixed organisms and biofilms from surfaces465, and have a low incidence of serious toxicity. Sodium hypochlorite at the concentration used in household bleach (5.25-6.15%) can produce ocular irritation or oropharyngeal, esophageal, and gastric burns. Other disadvantages of hypochlorites include corrosiveness to metals in high concentrations (>500 ppm), inactivation by organic matter, discoloring or “bleaching” of fabrics, release of toxic chlorine gas when mixed with ammonia or acid (e.g., household cleaning agents), and relative stability. The microbicidal activity of chlorine is attributed largely to undissociated hypochlorous acid (HOCl). The dissociation of HOCI to the less microbicidal form (hypochlorite ion OCl-) depends on pH. The disinfecting efficacy of chlorine decreases with an increase in pH that parallels the conversion of undissociated HOCI to OCl-. A potential hazard is production of the carcinogen bis(chloromethyl) ether when hypochlorite solutions contact formaldehyde and the production of the animal carcinogen trihalomethane when hot water is hyperchlorinated. After reviewing environmental fate and ecologic data, determined the currently registered uses of hypochlorites will not result in unreasonable adverse effects to the environment.

Alternative compounds that release chlorine and are used in the health-care setting include demand-release chlorine dioxide, sodium dichloroisocyanurate, and chloramine-T. The advantage of these compounds over the hypochlorites is that they retain chlorine longer and so exert a more prolonged bactericidal effect. Sodium dichloroisocyanurate tablets are stable, and for two reasons, the microbicidal activity of solutions prepared from sodium dichloroisocyanurate tablets might be greater than that of sodium hypochlorite solutions containing the same total available chlorine. First, with sodium dichloroisocyanurate, only 50% of the total available chlorine is free (HOCl and OCl-), whereas the remainder is combined (monochloroisocyanurate or dichloroisocyanurate), and as free available chlorine is used up, the latter is released to restore the equilibrium. Second, solutions of sodium dichloroisocyanurate are acidic, whereas sodium hypochlorite solutions are alkaline, and the more microbicidal type of chlorine (HOCl) is believed to predominate. Chlorine dioxide-based disinfectants are prepared fresh as required by mixing the two components (base solution [citric acid with preservatives and corrosion inhibitors] and the activator solution [sodium chlorite]). In vitro suspension tests showed that solutions containing about 140 ppm chlorine dioxide achieved a reduction factor exceeding 106 of S. aureus in 1 minute and of Bacillus atrophaeus spores in 2.5 minutes in the presence of 3 g/L bovine albumin. The potential for damaging equipment requires consideration because long-term use can damage the outer plastic coat of the insertion tube. In another study, chlorine dioxide solutions at either 600 ppm or 30 ppm killed Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare within 60 seconds after contact but contamination by organic material significantly affected the microbicidal properties.
The microbicidal activity of a new disinfectant, “superoxidized water,” has been examined The concept of electrolyzing saline to create a disinfectant or antiseptics is appealing because the basic materials of saline and electricity are inexpensive and the end product (i.e., water) does not damage the environment. The main products of this water are hypochlorous acid (e.g., at a concentration of about 144 mg/L) and chlorine. As with any germicide, the antimicrobial activity of superoxidized water is strongly affected by the concentration of the active ingredient (available free chlorine). One manufacturer generates the disinfectant at the point of use by passing a saline solution over coated titanium electrodes at 9 amps. The product generated has a pH of 5.0–6.5 and an oxidation-reduction potential (redox) of >950 mV. Although superoxidized water is intended to be generated fresh at the point of use, when tested under clean conditions the disinfectant was effective within 5 minutes when 48 hours old. Unfortunately, the equipment required to produce the product can be expensive because parameters such as pH, current, and redox potential must be closely monitored. The solution is nontoxic to biologic tissues. Although the United Kingdom manufacturer claims the solution is noncorrosive and nondamaging to endoscopes and processing equipment, one flexible endoscope manufacturer (Olympus Key-Med, United Kingdom) has voided the warranty on the endoscopes if superoxidized water is used to disinfect them. As with any germicide formulation, the user should check with the device manufacturer for compatibility with the germicide. Additional studies are needed to determine whether this solution could be used as an alternative to other disinfectants or antiseptics for hand washing, skin antisepsis, room cleaning, or equipment disinfection (e.g., endoscopes, dialyzers). In October 2002, the FDA cleared superoxidized water as a high-level disinfectant.

Mode of Action.

The exact mechanism by which free chlorine destroys microorganisms has not been elucidated. Inactivation by chlorine can result from a number of factors: oxidation of sulfhydryl enzymes and amino acids; ring chlorination of amino acids; loss of intracellular contents; decreased uptake of nutrients; inhibition of protein synthesis; decreased oxygen uptake; oxidation of respiratory components; decreased adenosine triphosphate production; breaks in DNA; and depressed DNA synthesis. The actual microbicidal mechanism of chlorine might involve a combination of these factors or the effect of chlorine on critical sites.

Microbicidal Activity.

Low concentrations of free available chlorine (e.g., HOCl, OCl-, and elemental chlorine-Cl2) have a biocidal effect on mycoplasma (25 ppm) and vegetative bacteria (<5 ppm) in seconds in the absence of an organic load. Higher concentrations (1,000 ppm) of chlorine are required to kill M. tuberculosis using the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) tuberculocidal test. A concentration of 100 ppm will kill ≥99.9% of B. atrophaeus spores within 5 minutes and destroy mycotic agents in <1 hour. Acidified bleach and regular bleach (5,000 ppm chlorine) can inactivate 106 Clostridium difficile spores in ≤10 minutes. One study reported that 25 different viruses were inactivated in 10 minutes with 200 ppm available chlorine. Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of diluted sodium hypochlorite and other disinfectants to inactivate HIV. Chlorine (500 ppm) showed inhibition of Candida after 30 seconds of exposure 54. In experiments using the AOAC Use-Dilution Method, 100 ppm of free chlorine killed 106–107 S. aureus, Salmonella choleraesuis, and P. aeruginosa in <10 minutes 327. Because household bleach contains 5.25%–6.15% sodium hypochlorite, or 52,500–61,500 ppm available chlorine, a 1:1,000 dilution provides about 53–62 ppm available chlorine, and a 1:10 dilution of household bleach provides about 5250–6150 ppm.
Data are available for chlorine dioxide that support manufacturers’ bactericidal, fungicidal, sporicidal, tuberculocidal, and virucidal label claims. A chlorine dioxide generator has been shown effective for decontaminating flexible endoscopes, but it is not currently FDA-cleared for use as a high-level disinfectant. Chlorine dioxide can be produced by mixing solutions, such as a solution of chlorine with a solution of sodium chlorite. In 1986, a chlorine dioxide product was voluntarily removed from the market when its use caused leakage of cellulose-based dialyzer membranes, which allowed bacteria to migrate from the dialysis fluid side of the dialyzer to the blood side.
Sodium dichloroisocyanurate at 2,500 ppm available chlorine is effective against bacteria in the presence of up to 20% plasma, compared with 10% plasma for sodium hypochlorite at 2,500 ppm.
“Superoxidized water” has been tested against bacteria, mycobacteria, viruses, fungi, and spores. Freshly generated superoxidized water is rapidly effective (<2 minutes) in achieving a 5-log10 reduction of pathogenic microorganisms (i.e., M. tuberculosis, M. chelonae, poliovirus, HIV, multidrug-resistant S. aureus, E. coli, Candida albicans, Enterococcus faecalis, P. aeruginosa) in the absence of organic loading. However, the biocidal activity of this disinfectant decreased substantially in the presence of organic material (e.g., 5% horse serum). No bacteria or viruses were detected on artificially contaminated endoscopes after a 5-minute exposure to superoxidized water and HBV-DNA was not detected from any endoscope experimentally contaminated with HBV-positive mixed sera after a disinfectant exposure time of 7 minutes. Uses. Hypochlorites are widely used in healthcare facilities in a variety of settings. Inorganic chlorine solution is used for disinfecting tonometer heads and for spot-disinfection of countertops and floors. A 1:10–1:100 dilution of 5.25%–6.15% sodium hypochlorite (i.e., household bleach) or A registered tuberculocidal disinfectant has been recommended for decontaminating blood spills. For small spills of blood (i.e., drops of blood) on noncritical surfaces, the area can be disinfected with a 1:100 dilution of 5.25%-6.15% sodium hypochlorite or an EPA-registered tuberculocidal disinfectant. Because hypochlorites and other germicides are substantially inactivated in the presence of blood large spills of blood require that the surface be cleaned before a registered disinfectant or a 1:10 (final concentration) solution of household bleach is applied. If a sharps injury is possible, the surface initially should be decontaminated, then cleaned and disinfected (1:10 final concentration). Extreme care always should be taken to prevent percutaneous injury. At least 500 ppm available chlorine for 10 minutes is recommended for decontaminating CPR training manikins. Full-strength bleach has been recommended for self-disinfection of needles and syringes used for illicit-drug injection when needle-exchange programs are not available. The difference in the recommended concentrations of bleach reflects the difficulty of cleaning the interior of needles and syringes and the use of needles and syringes for parenteral injection. Clinicians should not alter their use of chlorine on environmental surfaces on the basis of testing methodologies that do not simulate actual disinfection practices. Other uses in healthcare include as an irrigating agent in endodontic treatment and as a disinfectant for manikins, laundry, dental appliances, hydrotherapy tanks regulated medical waste before disposal, and the water distribution system in hemodialysis centers and hemodialysis machines. Chlorine long has been used as the disinfectant in water treatment. Hyperchlorination of a Legionella-contaminated hospital water system resulted in a dramatic decrease (from 30% to 1.5%) in the isolation of L. pneumophila from water outlets and a cessation of healthcare-associated Legionnaires’ disease in an affected unit. Water disinfection with monochloramine by municipal water-treatment plants substantially reduced the risk for healthcare–associated Legionnaires disease. Chlorine dioxide also has been used to control Legionella in a hospital water supply. Chloramine T and hypochlorites have been used to disinfect hydrotherapy equipment. Hypochlorite solutions in tap water at a pH >8 stored at room temperature (23ºC) in closed, opaque plastic containers can lose up to 40%–50% of their free available chlorine level over 1 month. Thus, if a user wished to have a solution containing 500 ppm of available chlorine at day 30, he or she should prepare a solution containing 1,000 ppm of chlorine at time 0. Sodium hypochlorite solution does not decompose after 30 days when stored in a closed brown bottle.
The use of powders, composed of a mixture of a chlorine-releasing agent with highly absorbent resin, for disinfecting spills of body fluids has been evaluated by laboratory tests and hospital ward trials. The inclusion of acrylic resin particles in formulations markedly increases the volume of fluid that can be soaked up because the resin can absorb 200–300 times its own weight of fluid, depending on the fluid consistency. When experimental formulations containing 1%, 5%, and 10% available chlorine were evaluated by a standardized surface test, those containing 10% demonstrated bactericidal activity. One problem with chlorine-releasing granules is that they can generate chlorine fumes when applied to urine


Most medical and surgical devices used in healthcare facilities are made of materials that are heat stable and therefore undergo heat, primarily steam, sterilization. However, since 1950, there has been an increase in medical devices and instruments made of materials (e.g., plastics) that require low-temperature sterilization. Ethylene oxide gas has been used since the 1950s for heat- and moisture-sensitive medical devices. Within the past 15 years, a number of new, low-temperature sterilization systems (e.g., hydrogen peroxide gas plasma, peracetic acid immersion, ozone) have been developed and are being used to sterilize medical devices. This section reviews sterilization technologies used in healthcare and makes recommendations for their optimum performance in the processing of medical devices.

Sterilization destroys all microorganisms on the surface of an article or in a fluid to prevent disease transmission associated with the use of that item. While the use of inadequately sterilized critical items represents a high risk of transmitting pathogens, documented transmission of pathogens associated with an inadequately sterilized critical item is exceedingly rare. This is likely due to the wide margin of safety associated with the sterilization processes used in healthcare facilities. The concept of what constitutes “sterile” is measured as a probability of sterility for each item to be sterilized. This probability is commonly referred to as the sterility assurance level (SAL) of the product and is defined as the probability of a single viable microorganism occurring on a product after sterilization. SAL is normally expressed a 10-n. For example, if the probability of a spore surviving were one in one million, the SAL would be 10-6. In short, a SAL is an estimate of lethality of the entire sterilization process and is a conservative calculation. Dual SALs (e.g., 10-3 SAL for blood culture tubes, drainage bags; 10-6 SAL for scalpels, implants) have been used in the United States for many years and the choice of a 10-6 SAL was strictly arbitrary and not associated with any adverse outcomes (e.g., patient infections).

Medical devices that have contact with sterile body tissues or fluids are considered critical items. These items should be sterile when used because any microbial contamination could result in disease transmission. Such items include surgical instruments, biopsy forceps, and implanted medical devices. If these items are heat resistant, the recommended sterilization process is steam sterilization, because it has the largest margin of safety due to its reliability, consistency, and lethality. However, reprocessing heat- and moisture-sensitive items requires use of a low-temperature sterilization technology (e.g., ethylene oxide, hydrogen peroxide gas plasma, peracetic acid). A summary of the advantages and disadvantages for commonly used sterilization technologies is presented.

Steam Sterilization


Of all the methods available for sterilization, moist heat in the form of saturated steam under pressure is the most widely used and the most dependable. Steam sterilization is nontoxic, inexpensive 826, rapidly microbicidal, sporicidal, and rapidly heats and penetrates fabrics. Like all sterilization processes, steam sterilization has some deleterious effects on some materials, including corrosion and combustion of lubricants associated with dental handpieces; reduction in ability to transmit light associated with laryngoscopes; and increased hardening time (5.6 fold) with plaster-cast.

The basic principle of steam sterilization, as accomplished in an autoclave, is to expose each item to direct steam contact at the required temperature and pressure for the specified time. Thus, there are four parameters of steam sterilization: steam, pressure, temperature, and time. The ideal steam for sterilization is dry saturated steam and entrained water (dryness fraction ≥97%). Pressure serves as a means to obtain the high temperatures necessary to quickly kill microorganisms. Specific temperatures must be obtained to ensure the microbicidal activity. The two-common steam-sterilizing temperatures are 121°C (250°F) and 132°C (270°F). These temperatures (and other high temperatures) must be maintained for a minimal time to kill microorganisms. Recognized minimum exposure periods for sterilization of wrapped healthcare supplies are 30 minutes at 121°C (250°F) in a gravity displacement sterilizer or 4 minutes at 132°C (270°C) in a prevacuum sterilizer. At constant temperatures, sterilization times vary depending on the type of item (e.g., metal versus rubber, plastic, items with lumens), whether the item is wrapped or unwrapped, and the sterilizer type.

The two basic types of steam sterilizers (autoclaves) are the gravity displacement autoclave and the high-speed prevacuum sterilizer. In the former, steam is admitted at the top or the sides of the sterilizing chamber and, because the steam is lighter than air, forces air out the bottom of the chamber through the drain vent. The gravity displacement autoclaves are primarily used to process laboratory media, water, pharmaceutical products, regulated medical waste, and nonporous articles whose surfaces have direct steam contact. For gravity displacement sterilizers the penetration time into porous items is prolonged because of incomplete air elimination. This point is illustrated with the decontamination of 10 lbs of microbiological waste, which requires at least 45 minutes at 121°C because the entrapped air remaining in a load of waste greatly retards steam permeation and heating efficiency. The high-speed prevacuum sterilizers are similar to the gravity displacement sterilizers except they are fitted with a vacuum pump (or ejector) to ensure air removal from the sterilizing chamber and load before the steam is admitted. The advantage of using a vacuum pump is that there is nearly instantaneous steam penetration even into porous loads. The Bowie-Dick test is used to detect air leaks and inadequate air removal and consists of folded 100% cotton surgical towels that are clean and preconditioned. A commercially available Bowie-Dick-type test sheet should be placed in the center of the pack. The test pack should be placed horizontally in the front, bottom section of the sterilizer rack, near the door and over the drain, in an otherwise empty chamber and run at 134°C for 3.5 minutes. The test is used each day the vacuum-type steam sterilizer is used, before the first processed load. Air that is not removed from the chamber will interfere with steam contact. Smaller disposable test packs (or process challenge devices) have been devised to replace the stack of folded surgical towels for testing the efficacy of the vacuum system in a prevacuum sterilizer.

These devices are “designed to simulate product to be sterilized and to constitute a defined challenge to the sterilization process”. They should be representative of the load and simulate the greatest challenge to the load. Sterilizer vacuum performance is acceptable if the sheet inside the test pack shows a uniform color change. Entrapped air will cause a spot to appear on the test sheet, due to the inability of the steam to reach the chemical indicator. If the sterilizer fails the Bowie-Dick test, do not use the sterilizer until it is inspected by the sterilizer maintenance personnel and passes the Bowie-Dick test.

Another design in steam sterilization is a steam flush-pressure pulsing process, which removes air rapidly by repeatedly alternating a steam flush and a pressure pulse above atmospheric pressure. Air is rapidly removed from the load as with the prevacuum sterilizer, but air leaks do not affect this process because the steam in the sterilizing chamber is always above atmospheric pressure. Typical sterilization temperatures and times are 132°C to 135°C with 3 to 4 minutes exposure time for porous loads and instruments.

Like other sterilization systems, the steam cycle is monitored by mechanical, chemical, and biological monitors. Steam sterilizers usually are monitored using a printout (or graphically) by measuring temperature, the time at the temperature, and pressure. Typically, chemical indicators are affixed to the outside and incorporated into the pack to monitor the temperature or time and temperature. The effectiveness of steam sterilization is monitored with a biological indicator containing spores of Geobacillus stearothermophilus (formerly Bacillus stearothermophilus). Positive spore test results are a relatively rare event and can be attributed to operator error, inadequate steam delivery, or equipment malfunction.

Portable (table-top) steam sterilizers are used in outpatient, dental, and rural clinics. These sterilizers are designed for small instruments, such as hypodermic syringes and needles and dental instruments. The ability of the sterilizer to reach physical parameters necessary to achieve sterilization should be monitored by mechanical, chemical, and biological indicators.

Microbicidal Activity.

The oldest and most recognized agent for inactivation of microorganisms is heat. D-values (time to reduce the surviving population by 90% or 1 log10) allow a direct comparison of the heat resistance of microorganisms. Because a D-value can be determined at various temperatures, a subscript is used to designate the exposure temperature (i.e., D121C). D121C-values for Geobacillus stearothermophilus used to monitor the steam sterilization process range from 1 to 2 minutes. Heat-resistant nonspore-forming bacteria, yeasts, and fungi have such low D121C values that they cannot be experimentally measured.

Mode of Action.

Moist heat destroys microorganisms by the irreversible coagulation and denaturation of enzymes and structural proteins. In support of this fact, it has been found that the presence of moisture significantly affects the coagulation temperature of proteins and the temperature at which microorganisms are destroyed.

Uses. Steam sterilization should be used whenever possible on all critical and semicritical items that are heat and moisture resistant (e.g., steam sterilizable respiratory therapy and anesthesia equipment), even when not essential to prevent pathogen transmission. Steam sterilizers also are used in healthcare facilities to decontaminate microbiological waste and sharps containers, but additional exposure time is required in the gravity displacement sterilizer for these items.


Cleaning is the removal of foreign material (e.g., soil, and organic material) from objects and is normally accomplished using water with detergents or enzymatic products.
Thorough cleaning is required before high-level disinfection and sterilization because inorganic and organic materials that remain on the surfaces of instruments interfere with the effectiveness of these processes. Also, if soiled materials dry or bake onto the instruments, the removal process becomes more difficult and the disinfection or sterilization process less effective or ineffective. Surgical instruments should be presoaked or rinsed to prevent drying of blood and to soften or remove blood from the instruments.

Cleaning is done manually in use areas without mechanical units (e.g., ultrasonic cleaners or washer-disinfectors) or for fragile or difficult-to-clean instruments. With manual cleaning, the two essential components are friction and fluidics. Friction (e.g., rubbing/scrubbing the soiled area with a brush) is an old and dependable method. Fluidics (i.e., fluids under pressure) is used to remove soil and debris from internal channels after brushing and when the design does not allow passage of a brush through. When a washer-disinfector is used, care should be taken in loading instruments: hinged instruments should be opened fully to allow adequate contact with the detergent solution; stacking of instruments in washers should be avoided; and instruments should be disassembled as much as possible.

The most common types of mechanical or automatic cleaners are ultrasonic cleaners, washer-decontaminators, washer-disinfectors, and washer-sterilizers. Ultrasonic cleaning removes soil by cavitation and implosion in which waves of acoustic energy are propagated in aqueous solutions to disrupt the bonds that hold particulate matter to surfaces. Bacterial contamination can be present in used ultrasonic cleaning solutions (and other used detergent solutions) because these solutions generally do not make antibacterial label. Even though ultrasound alone does not significantly inactivate bacteria, sonication can act synergistically to increase the cidal efficacy of a disinfectant. Users of ultrasonic cleaners should be aware that the cleaning fluid could result in endotoxin contamination of surgical instruments, which could cause severe inflammatory reactions. Washer-sterilizers are modified steam sterilizers that clean by filling the chamber with water and detergent through which steam passes to provide agitation. Instruments are subsequently rinsed and subjected to a short steam-sterilization cycle. Another washer-sterilizer employs rotating spray arms for a wash cycle followed by a steam sterilization cycle.

Washer-decontaminators/disinfectors act like a dishwasher that uses a combination of water circulation and detergents to remove soil. These units sometimes have a cycle that subjects the instruments to a heat process (e.g., 93ºC for 10 minutes). Washer-disinfectors are generally computer-controlled units for cleaning, disinfecting, and drying solid and hollow surgical and medical equipment. In one study, cleaning (measured as 5–6 log10 reduction) was achieved on surfaces that had adequate contact with the water flow in the machine. Detailed information about cleaning and preparing supplies for terminal sterilization is provided by professional organizations and books. Studies have shown that manual and mechanical cleaning of endoscopes achieves approximately a 4-log10 reduction of contaminating organisms. Thus, cleaning alone effectively reduces the number of microorganisms on contaminated equipment. In a quantitative analysis of residual protein contamination of reprocessed surgical instruments, median levels of residual protein contamination per instrument for five trays. In another study, the median amount of protein from reprocessed surgical instruments from different hospitals ranged. When manual methods were compared with automated methods for cleaning reusable accessory devices used for minimally invasive surgical procedures, the automated method was more efficient for cleaning biopsy forceps and ported and nonported laparoscopic devices and achieved a >99% reduction in soil parameters (i.e., protein, carbohydrate, hemoglobin) in the ported and nonported laparoscopic devices.

For instrument cleaning, a neutral or near-neutral pH detergent solution commonly is used because such solutions generally provide the best material compatibility profile and good soil removal. Enzymes, usually proteases, sometimes are added to neutral pH solutions to assist in removing organic material. Enzymes in these formulations attack proteins that make up a large portion of common soil (e.g., blood, pus). Cleaning solutions also can contain lipases (enzymes active on fats) and amylases (enzymes active on starches). Enzymatic cleaners are not disinfectants, and proteinaceous enzymes can be inactivated by germicides. As with all chemicals, enzymes must be rinsed from the equipment or adverse reactions (e.g., fever, residual amounts of high-level disinfectants, proteinaceous residue) could result. Enzyme solutions should be used in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions, which include proper dilution of the enzymatic detergent and contact with equipment for the amount of time specified on the label. Detergent enzymes can result in asthma or other allergic effects in users. Neutral pH detergent solutions that contain enzymes are compatible with metals and other materials used in medical instruments and are the best choice for cleaning delicate medical instruments, especially flexible endoscopes. Alkaline-based cleaning agents are used for processing medical devices because they efficiently dissolve protein and fat residues; however, they can be corrosive. Some data demonstrate that enzymatic cleaners are more effective than neutral detergents in removing microorganisms from surfaces, but two more recent studies found no difference in cleaning efficiency between enzymatic and alkaline-based cleaners. Another study found no significant difference between enzymatic and non-enzymatic cleaners in terms of microbial cleaning efficacy. A new non-enzyme, hydrogen peroxide-based formulation was as effective as enzymatic cleaners in removing protein, blood, carbohydrate, and endotoxin from surface test carriers. In addition, this product effected a 5-log10 reduction in microbial loads with a 3-minute exposure at room temperature.

Although the effectiveness of high-level disinfection and sterilization mandates effective cleaning, no “real-time” tests exist that can be employed in a clinical setting to verify cleaning. If such tests were commercially available, they could be used to ensure an adequate level of cleaning. The only way to ensure adequate cleaning is to conduct a reprocessing verification test (e.g., microbiologic sampling), but this is not routinely recommended. Validation of the cleaning processes in a laboratory-testing program is possible by microorganism detection, chemical detection for organic contaminants, radionuclide tagging, and chemical detection for specific ions. During the past few years, data have been published describing use of an artificial soil, protein, endotoxin, X-ray contrast medium, or blood to verify the manual or automated cleaning process and adenosine triphosphate bioluminescence and microbiologic sampling to evaluate the effectiveness of environmental surface cleaning. At a minimum, all instruments should be individually inspected and be visibly clean.

5. Cleaning and Disinfecting Environmental Surfaces in Healthcare Facilities

a. Clean housekeeping surfaces (e.g., floors, tabletops) on a regular basis, when spills occur, and when these surfaces are visibly soiled.

b. Disinfect (or clean) environmental surfaces on a regular basis (e.g., daily, three times per week) and when surfaces are visibly soiled.

c. Follow manufacturers’ instructions for proper use of disinfecting (or detergent) products — such as recommended use-dilution, material compatibility, storage, shelf-life, and safe use and disposal.

d. Clean walls, blinds, and window curtains in patient-care areas when these surfaces are visibly contaminated or soiled.

e. Prepare disinfecting (or detergent) solutions as needed and replace these with fresh solution frequently (e.g., replace floor mopping solution every three patient rooms, change no less often than at 60-minute intervals), according to the facility’s policy.

f. Decontaminate mop heads and cleaning cloths regularly to prevent contamination (e.g., launder and dry at least daily).

g. Use a one-step process and a registered hospital disinfectant designed for housekeeping purposes in patient care areas where
1. uncertainty exists about the nature of the soil on the surfaces (e.g., blood or body fluid contamination versus routine dust or dirt); or
2. uncertainty exists about the presence of multidrug resistant organisms on such surfaces. See 5n for recommendations requiring cleaning and disinfecting blood-contaminated surfaces.

h. Detergent and water are adequate for cleaning surfaces in nonpatient-care areas (e.g., administrative offices).

i. Do not use high-level disinfectants/liquid chemical sterilant for disinfection of non-critical surfaces.
j. Wet-dust horizontal surfaces regularly (e.g., daily, three times per week) using clean cloths moistened with a registered hospital disinfectant (or detergent). Prepare the disinfectant (or detergent) as recommended by the manufacturer.

k. Disinfect noncritical surfaces with a registered hospital disinfectant according to the label’s safety precautions and use directions. Most registered hospital disinfectants have a label contact time of 10 minutes. However, many scientific studies have demonstrated the efficacy of hospital disinfectants against pathogens with a contact time of at least 1 minute. By law, the user must follow all applicable label instructions on registered products. If the user selects exposure conditions that differ from those on the registered product label, the user assumes liability for any injuries resulting from off-label use and is potentially subject to enforcement action.

l. Do not use disinfectants to clean infant bassinets and incubators while these items are occupied. If disinfectants (e.g., phenolics) are used for the terminal cleaning of infant bassinets and incubators, thoroughly rinse the surfaces of these items with water and dry them before these items are reused.

m. Promptly clean and decontaminate spills of blood and other potentially infectious materials. Discard blood-contaminated items in compliance with federal regulations.

n. For site decontamination of spills of blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM), implement the following procedures. Use protective gloves and other PPE (e.g., when sharps are involved use forceps to pick up sharps and discard these items in a puncture-resistant container) appropriate for this task. Disinfect areas contaminated with blood spills using a registered tuberculocidal agent, a registered germicide on (i.e., products with specific label claims for HIV or HBV or freshly diluted hypochlorite solution. 1. * If sodium hypochlorite solutions are selected use a 1:100 dilution (e.g., 1:100 dilution of a 5.25-6.15% sodium hypochlorite provides 525-615 ppm available chlorine) to decontaminate nonporous surfaces after a small spill (e.g., <10 mL) of either blood or OPIM. If a spill involves large amounts (e.g., >10 mL) of blood or OPIM, or involves a culture spill in the laboratory, use a 1:10 dilution for the first application of hypochlorite solution before cleaning in order to reduce the risk of infection during the cleaning process in the event of a sharp injury. Follow this decontamination process with a terminal disinfection, using a 1:100 dilution of sodium hypochlorite.

o. If the spill contains large amounts of blood or body fluids, clean the visible matter with disposable absorbent material, and discard the contaminated materials in appropriate, labeled containment.

p. Use protective gloves and other PPE appropriate for this task.

q. This recommendation was updated to reflect changes in Federal regulatory approvals: Registered Antimicrobial Products Effective against Clostridium difficile Spores

r. In units with high rates of endemic Clostridium difficile infection or in an outbreak setting, use dilute solutions of 5.25%–6.15% sodium hypochlorite (e.g., 1:10 dilution of household bleach) for routine environmental disinfection. Currently, no products are registered specifically for inactivating C. difficile spores.

s. If chlorine solution is not prepared fresh daily, it can be stored at room temperature for up to 30 days in a capped, opaque plastic bottle with a 50% reduction in chlorine concentration after 30 days of storage (e.g., 1000 ppm chlorine [approximately a 1:50 dilution] at day 0 decreases to 500 ppm chlorine by day 30).

t. A registered sodium hypochlorite product is preferred, but if such products are not available, generic versions of sodium hypochlorite solutions (e.g., household chlorine bleach) can be used.

6. Disinfectant Fogging

a. Do not perform disinfectant fogging for routine purposes in patient-care areas.

Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities state that does not support disinfectant fogging.
These recommendations refer to the spraying or fogging of chemicals (e.g., formaldehyde, phenol-based agents, or quaternary ammonium compounds) as a way to decontaminate environmental surfaces or disinfect the air in patient rooms.

The recommendation against fogging was based on studies in the 1970’s that reported a lack of microbicidal efficacy (e.g., use of quaternary ammonium compounds in mist applications) but also adverse effects on healthcare workers and others in facilities where these methods were utilized. Furthermore, some of these chemicals are not EPA-registered for use in fogging-type applications.

These recommendations do not apply to newer technologies involving fogging for room decontamination (e.g., ozone mists, vaporized hydrogen peroxide) that have become available.
“More research is required to clarify the effectiveness and reliability of fogging, UV irradiation, and ozone mists to reduce norovirus environmental contamination. (No recommendation/ unresolved issue)”