Scary Movie: Decontamination Edition

Automated washers

Beware what lurks in the dark and damp


It is mid-October, a time when apples are pressed into cider, leaves turn to vibrant autumn colors and Hollywood releases horror movies to scare and thrill audiences.  While the names of monsters, ghosts and ghouls in these movies change, there are some recurring themes that are common to all of them including dangers lurking in hidden places, unexpected twists, secret weapons and of course, sequels.

In a horror movie starring SPD professionals, germs would be the monsters and the same themes that create tension and suspense in Hollywood could easily be adapted.

Revenge of the kitchen sink

AAMI ST79 Environmental Cleaning-1

This recent CNN article identifies the germiest places in your house and makes a surprising revelation that has the feel of a classic horror movie.  After making it clear that the toilet is NOT the scariest source for household germs, it completely shocks readers by revealing that the kitchen sink – a key ally in the fight against germs – is the real monster! As stated in the article, “There's more fecal bacteria in your kitchen sink than there is in a toilet after you flush it.” It is like finding out that the threatening voice on phone is really your best friend and she is calling from inside the house!

Sinks and surrounding surfaces are the epicenter of activity in kitchens and in the decontamination area. Cleaning surgical instruments removes gross soil and can transfer both soil and microorganisms to the sink, faucets, drain stoppers, and anywhere that a PentaZyme Multi-enzymatic Cleanerdroplet of water can splash. Floors should always be considered contaminated. Make sure that you have a schedule and procedure, with access to the right tools and cleaners, to regularly and thoroughly clean sinks and surrounding areas. Multi-enzymatic cleaners like the U.S. EPA Safer Choice awarded PentaZyme® Cleaner do double duty; when used at the sink to clean instruments they remove and break down soil, then continue that activity in the sink’s drain system.

A Scary Sequel: Beware the Automated Washer Settings

Every great scary movie franchise has a sequel where the same monster shows up in a new location to continue its reign of terror. When it comes to the horror story of germs in the home, another CNN article reveals that a second area that is commonly used for cleaning but in secret is a breeding ground for germs – the washing machine!

Loads washed with warm or cold water do not achieve the temperatures needed to kill bacteria and can even become breeding grounds for bacterial growth if not promptly and thoroughly dried.

“According to studies, the advised temperature for effectively killing possibly pathogenic bacteria is 140°F (60°C) or higher, which is considered hot water. Between 90°F and 110°F is warm, while water between 60°F and 80°F is considered cold.”

Automated washers in Sterile Processing Dept

Again, while this article focuses on home washing machines, there are lessons SPD professionals can apply.  Make sure to set your automated washers for the ideal temperature to achieve best outcome and follow with thermal disinfection. And, don’t forget to rinse!

The secret weapon

When all hope looks to be lost, survivors in horror movies find a secret weapon and heroically win the day by exploiting the monster’s vulnerability.  In the fight against bacteria and other forms of contamination, SPD professionals also have a secret weapon in the full line of products provided by Case Medical!

Fending off infectious fiends takes planning and consistency. Your facility’s plan for environmental cleaning in the central sterile processing department should be comprehensive, detailing the frequency, methods, tools, checklists, assignments, and audits required to prevent cross contamination. IAHCSMM offers a CE-credited webinar on Environmental Cleaning, free to members, that provides a great overview with practical tips and links to additional tools. Do you have a best practice to share related to environmental cleaning in CS/SPD? Share it below!