Cleaning surgical instruments in an Automated Washer Disinfector

Cleaning surgical instruments in an Automated Washer Disinfector:

Decontamination of a surgical instrument is a complex process that involves a number of steps and processes.

Cleaning is the first critical step of the process. If instruments are not cleaned they cannot be sterilised. Residual debris remaining on an instrument after cleaning will impede sterilization.

It is recommended and preferable that all surgical instruments (that can go in a washer) are indeed washed in an Automated Washer Disinfector (AWD). A well designed AWD can clean surgical instruments effectively and can also be energy and water efficient.

Impingement value (the force of the water spray on the instruments) is an important factor when it comes to effectively cleaning an instrument in an AWD. To ensure good water force we should always check the spray nozzles are not blocked and also check before starting a load that the spray arms can rotate freely.


Tips for loading an AWD to ensure efficient and effective cleaning:

  • Do not overload the instrument trays
  • Open all hinged instruments
  • Trays used in the washer should be meshed and allow for water penetration
  • Load hollow items upside down
  • Use the correct rack configuration for items in the load



Brown, S. Beauclair, S. 2016 Self-Study Series: Is that really clean. Health Purchasing News

Maheux, M. Rochette, D. Kaiser, N 2008: Self-Study Series: A validated approach to cleaning. Health Purchasing News