Caring for your Stethoscope

June 17, 2015

A stethoscope is an investment to use while in school and throughout your career. The proper washing and handling extends the life and quality of your stethoscope and routinely cleaning your stethoscope will ensure optimal acoustic performance. Lighter colored ones are more susceptible to staining and looking grungy so you may want to opt for a darker color or commit to a regular cleaning regimen to keep it looking like new. The other reason to keep it clean is that 80% of stethoscopes used by doctors and nurses in hospitals are contaminated with microbes, mostly Staphylococcus.

The majority of tubing used on stethoscopes is made of PVC (polyvinylchloride) which becomes hard when exposed for long periods of time to the lipids found in human skin. Wearing the stethoscope around the neck may cause stiffening of the tubing over time. If worn around the neck, wear the stethoscope over a collar or use a stethoscope cover, away from contact with your skin.

General cleaning instructions:

Do not immerse your stethoscope in any liquid or subject it to any sterilization process. If disinfection is required, the stethoscope may be wiped with a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution
Keep your stethoscope away from extreme heat, cold, solvents and oils
Ear tips may be removed from the ear tubes for thorough cleaning
Before and after every shift, wipe down the stethoscope, starting at the earpieces (which helps prevent the spread of ear infections among the staff), continuing down the tubing, and ending around the bell and diaphragm. Take the diaphragm apart to remove dust, lint, or debris and clean it well before reassembling it.

Remove ink stains – peroxide
Armor All your stethoscope to remove scuffs
Keep the box/packaging it comes in when storing it in your backpack or work tote keep.
You don’t want to use anything abrasive to clean a stethoscope because it will end up looking worse. Wiping it with a disinfectant will get the marks off as well as anything.
After trying on your scrubs, wash them before wearing them. This will prevent any dye rubbing off on your tubing when wearing it around your neck or storing it in your pocket.
You want to be careful when you clean the tubing on your stethoscope. Too many applications of alcohol or Cavicide will cause it to stiffen and crack. Every once use a tire dressing. It’s meant to keep rubber tires supple and lubricated and it works just dandy on stethoscope tubing too. Just make sure you buff off the excess.
Use disposable covers. Available in various styles, the most useful covers are designed for single use. They’re made of thin plastic, which prevents crackling sounds. Most covers protect the bell and diaphragm and the tubing leading to the stethoscope’s bifurcation. Ask your infection control coordinator about these covers.

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