Surgical instruments - Maintenance and care of surgical tools

Guidelines to extend the life of your surgical instruments

Maintenance and Care

Proper care of your surgical instruments will improve their longevity and function. Below are different cleaning, sterilization, and maintenance processes to guide you through your techniques.


Guidelines to extend the life of your surgical instruments:

  • Clean and thoroughly dry your instruments as soon as possible after each use, paying special attention to joints, hinges, and anywhere there is metal to metal contact.
  • Handle your instruments delicately and with care.
  • Use your instruments for their intended purpose.
  • Store your instruments with tip protectors, and always place
    them so that they do not touch each other.



Fine surgical instruments should be cleaned immediately after use. Blood or saline solutions left on instruments for any length of time can quickly start corrosive action. Time, temperature, and agitation play important roles in the cleaning process. Time affects the efficiency of cleaning solutions as most are effective after a certain time period. Higher temperature cleaning solutions result in better cleaning. During manual or ultrasonic cleaning it is helpful to loosen any surgical reminisce. Before any of the below procedures, rinse your instruments under warm running water to remove all blood and tissue. Instruments can be cleaned manually or ultrasonically, but always:

  • Use a neutral pH (pH 7) cleaning solution.
  • Clean instruments in the open position to ensure a thorough and effective cleaning process.
  • Use soft textile or paper cloths, soft plastic brushes made of nylon, or water spray guns.
  • Do NOT use steel wool, wire brushes, or scouring pads as these are abrasive to the instruments.


Manual Cleaning

  • Make sure all instruments are visibly clean and free from stains, wiping them carefully to remove all blood and tissue matter.
  • Rinse instruments thoroughly with distilled water, paying close attention to joints and hinges as these areas can accumulate unwanted material.
  • Air dry your instruments completely and use a can of compressed air to blow out any water at the joints and hinges. Then store them only in clean and dry environments.


Ultrasonic Cleaning

Ultrasonic cleaning is the most effective cleaning method. The vibrating sound waves create micron-sized bubbles in the solution that grow with the alternating pressure. When the bubbles reach a particular size, they collapse creating a force that dislodges dirt and particles, even in the smallest of crevices.

  • NOT recommended for delicate and micro instruments.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific instructions and cleaning cycle times. Instruments should be processed for the full recommended cycle time.
  • Place instruments in the open position in the ultrasonic cleaner.
    • Do NOT allow instruments with sharp blades to touch other instruments.
    • Do NOT place dissimilar metals (stainless, copper, chrome plated) in the same cleaning cycle.
    • Make sure all instruments are completely submerged.
  • After the ultrasonic cleaning cycle is complete, rinse instruments thoroughly to remove all ultrasonic cleaning solution.
  • Dry instruments thoroughly with a clean towel.
  • Use a spray lubricant in the hinges to minimize the risk of corrosion and maintain functionality.


It is important that instruments are free from all traces of organic or other matter prior to sterilization.


Steam Sterilization/Autoclaving

The autoclave process utilizes moist heat (or steam) under pressure for sterilization. The steam used must be from distilled water and free of all impurities.

  • Lubricate all instruments that have any metal to metal interaction such as; scissors, rongeurs, needle holders, hemostats, and retractors. Do NOT use WD-40 or other industrial lubricants.
  • Instruments may be autoclaved individually or in sets.
    • Individual instruments: Disposable wraps or sterilization pouches are ideal. Make sure the pouch size is sufficient for the instrument to be in an open (unlocked) position.
    • Instrument sets: Open and unlock all instruments. Place the heavier instruments on the bottom of the set when two layers are needed.
  • Do NOT lock instruments during autoclaving. This will prevent the steam from reaching and sterilizing the metal to metal surfaces, and heat expansion during autoclaving can cause cracks in the hinge areas.
  • Do NOT over load the autoclave chamber as this may hinder steam penetration.
  • Place a towel on the bottom of the pan to absorb excess moisture during autoclaving. Make sure the towel has no detergent residue and is pH neutral if immersed in water.
  • At the end of the autoclave cycle (before the drying cycle) unlock the autoclave door and open it slightly. Run the dry cycle for the recommended time period by the autoclave manufacturer.

Please note: If the autoclave door is fully opened before the drying cycle, cold air will rush into the chamber, which can cause condensation on the instruments. This will result in water stains on the instruments.


Hot Bead Sterilization

Recommended for speed and convenience when instrument tips or blade sterilization is required. The Hot Bead Sterilizer does not use dangerous gases, flames, or chemicals. Highlights:

  • Bench top set up.
  • Only 20 seconds of contact required to ensure your instruments are free of pathogens and microbial contaminants.
  • Beads reach temperature of 240˚ - 270˚C (464˚ - 518˚F) within 15-20 minutes heating time.


Ethylene Oxide (ETO) Sterilization

This method is recommended for instruments that will not tolerate high temperatures or moisture (e.g., catheters, cannulae, etc.). This is a process consisting of 4 primary variables; gas concentration, humidity, temperature and time.



Surgical instruments should be properly stored in a clean and dry environment. It is highly recommended to use tip protectors and instrument cases to avoid possible damage to your instruments.


Oxidation (Rust)

All FST stainless steel surgical instruments are manufactured from medical grade stainless steel under strict European standards. It is very important to properly take care of your instruments to extend their lifespan.

Although stainless steel is corrosive resistant, it can still rust or stain if handled improperly. Under unfavorable conditions instruments may oxidize because stainless steel that is exposed to physical, thermal, or chemical manipulations may lose some of its stainless properties.