Decon Pete – hints and tips for purchasing washer disinfectors

decon Pete on washer disinfectors

This month, Decon Pete outlines everything you need to know when buying washer disinfectors and how to choose the right one for your practice.

Whether you are looking to replace a piece of equipment or purchase for the very first time, there are some things that you should consider which will aid your choice and ensure that the correct equipment is purchased.

Thermal washer disinfectors

Thermal washer disinfectors are currently not a mandatory piece of equipment within England and Wales. However, once introduced, they play an integral part in ensuring patient and staff safety. Whether you’re looking to replace an existing unit or start from scratch, it’s important that you consider a few things.

All washer disinfectors need to comply with EN 15883 which highlights the testing, validation, and design specifications of all small thermal washers. The vast majority of dental washer disinfectors will reprocess dental instruments using the following five stages:

1. Flush

Removes ‘difficult’ gross contamination, including blood, tissue debris, bone fragments and other fluid and solid debris. Latest standards indicate that a water temperature of less than 45°C is used to prevent protein coagulation and fixing of soil to the instrument.

2. Wash

Removes any remaining soil. Mechanical and chemical processes loosen and break up contamination adhering to the instrument surface. Detergents used in this process must be specified by the manufacturer as suitable for use in a washer disinfector and compatible with the quality of water used. Detergents should also be compatible with the instruments being processed to avoid instrument degradation including discolouration, staining, corrosion, and pitting.

3. Rinse

Removes detergent used during the cleaning process. This stage can contain several sub-stages. The quality of water to be used for this stage is an important consideration in terms of ensuring a clean, unmarked product after sterilisation. Advice should be taken from manufacturers with respect to the compatibility of the hardness or quality of the water supply with the equipment and detergents used.

4. Thermal disinfection

The temperature of the load is raised and held at the pre-set disinfection temperature for the required disinfection holding time. For example, 80°C for 10 minutes, or 90°C for one minute.

5. Drying

Purges the load and chamber with heated air to remove residual moisture.

Understand the washer size

In order to get the most out of any washer disinfectors (WDs), it is mightily important that you match the size of the unit to the number of surgeries that you have. Having a WD that is too large for the number of surgeries that you have will result in an inefficient use of the unit.

When looking at WDs, always ask the supplier how many surgeries the unit will service and how many instruments it will process in one go. Once you know this information, you can have a rough idea of how many times it will need to run during a day.

It is a good idea to think about washers that minimise the amount of downtime between cycles. Try not to get washers that are too large for your practice. This will result in a long wait time for it to fill, which will result in acquisition of additional instruments.

On the flip side, try not to get a washer too small for your practice, as this will result in a backlog of instruments waiting to be processed.

Flexible internal furniture

The vast majority of washers will come with pre-selected internal furniture, offering the most common dental load types. In order to maximise the washer capacity, it’s important that the washer you choose has a different array of flexible furniture options. These could include the following:

  • Baskets for loose instruments
  • Toast racks for clip trays
  • Baskets for forceps, scissors etc
  • Inserts for lumen instruments.

A good selection of cycle types

It’s difficult to determine the actual cycle times of washers. The main variable that can impact this is your practice mains water pressure. The higher your water pressure, the quicker the cycle, as it can fill up quicker. Likewise, if you have low water pressure, the unit will take longer to fill. This will result in a slower cycle time.

Try to get a washer that has a good variety of cycle times, including half load quick cycles. This way, you have more flexibility with the use of the unit.

Future proof

Dentistry has well and truly entered the digital revolution and decontamination equipment is also progressing that way. It’s worth considering units that could be networked. Even if you’re not looking for it to be networked now, having it ready is a great addition for the future. By having the units networked, all the daily cycle logs can be stored directly onto a computer, minimising the need for downloading them.

Networking units also allow you to use other items such as track and trace software, documenting the full journey of your instruments.

All tests and daily checks should also be recorded in a suitable record book. Keep these for a minimum of two years somewhere that is easily accessible by all staff and any clinical inspector.

If you have any questions or would like to view any of the services that I offer, please either email me on [email protected] or visit the website

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