Who has been told you can’t use metal bristle brushes to clean surgical instruments? At some point or another, most sterile processing professionals have heard this, and some facilities only mention stainless steel cleaning brushes in hushed voices or in secret locker room meetings. Let’s put cleaning brush material compatibility out in the open and have a real discussion. Instrument cleaning brushes come in varying bristle materials that have produce different levels of friction when used. Nylon bristle brushes are the most versatile bristle material available in instrument cleaning brushes. Nylon provides a good amount of friction and is materially compatible with just about an instrument out there. If more friction is needed, stiffer bristle materials such, as extra-rigid nylon and polypropylene are a great option for a more abrasive material that still provides wide material compatibility. Metal bristle brushes such as brass and stainless steel provide the most abrasive materials available and are useful when softer materials just aren’t cutting it, but metal bristle brushes can cause damage to coated and insulated instruments. If metal bristle brushes are so useful, why do they get such a bad rap? The easy answer is because they can cause damage to some instrumentation when misused. But we’re in luck, the FDA requires that device manufacturers provide specific information in their reprocessing instructions which can include required brush length, diameter, and bristle material. If you ever find yourself unsure of what type of bristle material should be used to clean a device, look no further than the manufacturer instructions for use!
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