ONEcleaner neutral pH enzyme detergent lubricating surgical instrument cleaners are your first-line-of-defense against corrosion by maintaining the passive layer of surgical instrument stainless steel. 

Stainless steel instruments are made of corrosion resistant high-grade specialty steels. One of the characteristics of these steels is that the manufacturer forms a passive layer on the surface, which protects them against  corrosion. This makes surgery instruments as corrosion resistant as possible.  

It is imperative that you maintain the passive oxide layer, to prevent corrosion, and maintain your surgical instruments in optimal working condition. If this is not done the stainless steel will be more susceptible to corrosion, pitting and stains. This will reduce the effectiveness of the surgical steel passive layer and shorten usable life span of your surgical instruments 

Initially, all stainless steel surgical instruments have the same corrosion resistance. Manufacturers of surgery instruments recommend the use of neutral pH cleaning concentrates. This will maintain and strengthen the passive layer.

Neutral pH all-in-one or ONEcleaner enzyme detergent cleaning concentrates have been shown to be effective in optimizing the protective efficacy of the passive oxide layer. This provides a longer life for stainless steel surgery instruments.

Cleaning concentrates with a high or low pH have been shown to erode the passive layer. The most common of these cleaning concentrates utilize an alkaline detergent with an acid neutralizer. Virtually all manufacturers of surgical instruments and surgical instrument containers recommend against using these detergents and recommend using a neutral pH detergent.

Neutral pH Cleaning is recommended by
Device Manufacturers

Virtually all manufacturers of surgical instruments, rigid scopes, flexible scopes, and instrument containers recommend the use of neutral pH Cleaning Concentrates. Do not use high acidic (pH <4) or high alkaline (pH >10) products for disinfection or cleaning, since these can corrode metal, cause discoloration or stress fractures. Do not use abrasive pads which will scratch the surface.

The use of cleaning products that are not neutral pH and abrasive cleaning will reduce the passive layer effectiveness  remove the protective passive layer.

Lubrication of Surgical Instruments and
 Passive Layer of Stainless Steel

To maintain moving parts and protect instruments from staining and rusting during sterilization and storage, they should be lubricated with a water-soluble, preserved  lubricant after each cleaning. Most automated washer decontaminators provide the option for lubrication at the end of the final rinse treatment. Since effective ultrasonic  cleaning removes all lubricant, re-lubrication is important. "all-in-one" cleaning concentrates will provide lubrication. The lubricant should contain a chemical preservative to prevent bacterial growth in the lubricant bath. The bath solution should be made with demineralized water. Surgical instrument lubricants containing a rust inhibitor helps prevent electrolytic corrosion of points and edges. Immediately after cleaning, instruments should be immersed or rinsed for 30 seconds and allowed to drain off, not wiped off. A lubricant film  will remain through the sterilization to protect surgery instruments during storage. 

Prevent Staining and Spotting and 
the Passive Layer of Stainless Steel

Staining and spotting may result if residual chemicals are not completely rinsed from surgery instruments that are subjected to steam sterilization. Following the manufacturer’s recommendations for the proper sequence of treatments (cold water wash, enzyme-detergent wash, purified water rinse/lubrication, and drying) is critical to prevent stains and spots. A Cleaning Concentrates that will avoid spotting are "free-rinsing" or "rinse clean" or "residue free".

Research Study and the "passive oxide layer" of Surgical Instruments: the stainless steel passive layer prevents corrosion. A reduction in corrosion prevention will occur with the use of cleaning concentrates that are not neutral pH. The use of cleaning concentrates that deliver an acid rinse will release nickel from the stainless steel and decrease the efficacy of  the passive layer. This is most critical on initial reprocessing events of stainless steel surgical instruments.

What is surgical instrument stainless steel
 and the passive layer?

Stainless steel is essentially a low carbon steel which contains chromium at 10% or more by weight. It is this addition of chromium that gives the steel its unique stainless, corrosion resisting properties. The chromium content of the steel allows the formation of a rough, adherent, invisible, corrosion-resisting chromium oxide film on the steel  surface. If damaged mechanically or chemically, this film is self-healing, providing that oxygen, even in very small amounts, is present. The corrosion resistance and other  useful properties of the steel are enhanced by increased chromium content and the addition of other elements such as molybdenum, nickel and nitrogen. Stainless steel has a passive film created by the presence of chromium (and often other alloying elements, nickel, molybdenum) that resists this process. When exposed in air, stainless steels passivate naturally (due to the presence of chromium). But the time required can vary. In order to ensure that the passive layer reforms rapidly after pickling, a passivation  treatment is performed using a solution of nitric acid and water.

The passive layer or stainless steel
 to prevents or resists corrosion.

The process is called “Passivation”. “Passivation” and Polishing eliminate the carbon molecules  form the instrument surface. This forms a layer which acts as a corrosive resistant seal. Passivation is a chemical process that removes carbon molecules from the surface  of the instrument. This chemical process can also occur through repeated exposure to oxidizing agents in chemicals, soaps, and the atmosphere. Polishing, by the manufacturer, is a process used to achieve a smooth surface on the instrument. Surgical Instruments are polished because the passivation process leaves microscopic pits where the  carbon molecules were removed. Polishing also builds a layer of chromium oxide on the surface of the surgery instrument. Proper cleaning, handling, and sterilization will build up the layer of  chromium oxide and protect the Surgical Instrument from corrosion and /or pitting. In some circumstances older instruments have higher resistance to corrosion than new ones. The newer instruments have not had the time to build up the chromium oxide passive layer. Improper cleaning and sterilization can cause the layer of chromium oxide to disappear or become damaged thus increasing the possibility of corrosion and/or pitting. Proper cleaning and sterilization can cause the layer of chromium oxide to improve over time thus decreasing the possibility of corrosion and/or pitting.

Second only to the financial asset value of the working staff, the surgical instrument and scope inventory is the single most financially valuable asset of the healthcare facility. It is important to properly clean, sterilize, handle, store your surgical instruments, and maintain the passive layer of surgical stainless steel.

John Temple
Product Development

Call Customer Service: 1-509-220-2456
Send an email: [email protected]

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