These days we expect that any time we have something even mildly invasive done at a doctor’s office or even at a spa that the instruments they use on us are sterile. Brochures from reputable nail salons and spas have pictures of the autoclaves (sterilizers) they use proudly displayed.
At Austin Foot Health Specialists, we found out somewhat by accident quite a few years ago that an autoclave is only part of the picture. What happened was a doctor was leaving his practice and made us a very good offer on some of his equipment. Included in that batch was an ultrasonic cleaner. We did not think much of the ultrasonic cleaner because we had always cleaned all of our instruments quite thoroughly with stiff brushes and soap and water prior to sterilizing them in the autoclave. But, since we had it, we tried it. We put the instruments in the ultrasonic cleaner after we have scrubbed them with the brush and soap and water. We were amazed at the dirt which came off our instruments even after they appeared to be clean following scrubbing! Needless to say, ultrasonic cleaning has become a regular part of our instrument care routine.
When that original ultrasonic cleaner died we replaced it with a new, even more advanced, ultrasonic cleaner which “sweeps” through different ultrasonic frequencies and cleans even more effectively. (The sound of the ultrasonic cleaner is somewhat disconcerting in that it sounds like crickets!)
I don’t know how most doctors or others using sterile instruments clean their instruments before sterilizing them, but from experience, I believe ultrasonic cleaning of instruments is extremely important. Even if an instrument is sterilized and free of germs you still don’t want it to have microscopic pieces of someone else’s protein transferred into you. Ultrasonic cleaning of instruments before sterilization removes those microscopic contaminants and prevents them as well as bacteria from being transferred to you.