How Ultrasonic Cleaners Prolong the Life of Instruments

From simple forceps to complex robotics, surgical instruments are expensive. Yet contamination with blood and tissue can cause staining and corrosion that can affect the use of the instrument and spread infection. How can you get the most out of your surgical instruments and prolong their useful lives?

The first step is to make sure they are clean. During surgery, blood and debris can work their way into hinges and box locks, as well as inside lumens and robotic instruments. Since the development of robotic surgery, instruments have become more and more complex. And the more complex the instruments, the harder they are to clean.

Manual cleaning

Manual cleaning, the first step in any cleaning of your surgical instruments, removes gross debris. Specialized brushes can reach inside lumens and dislodge bits of tissue and blood. But even specialized brushes have a hard time reaching into hinges and box locks and all the small crevices of lumen instruments.

Triton 36 ultrasonic cleaner for surgical instruments

When brushes can’t remove the soils from these areas, instruments can become hard to operate or sustain damage. Corrosion from blood or bodily fluids can stop hinges from working smoothly and dull cutting edges. Dried soils also can break down an instrument’s protective finish, stain the instrument, or cause pitting in the instrument’s surface.1

Stainless steel instruments are able to heal their own nicks or cuts with a passive outer layer that makes it corrosion resistant. To do that, though, the damaged area needs to be exposed to air, not covered with soils or biofilm.2

In addition, surgical soils can hide bacteria from sterilization efforts. Dried soils are harder to remove and can cause the formation of biofilm over any bacteria already on the instruments. If the biofilm is not removed prior to sterilization, it can “protect” the bacteria, keeping them from being killed during the process and potentially spreading infection to the next patient. Corrosion or rust also can build up on instruments and hide bacteria.

Ultrasonic cleaning

That is where ultrasonic cleaning comes in. In a process called cavitation, ultrasonic cleaners use high-frequency sound waves to create microscopic bubbles in a liquid (detergent) and then implode those bubbles, which creates a vacuum and scrubbing action on the instruments. This cavitation helps loosen and dislodge microorganisms and fine debris so the surfactants in the detergent can sequester them until they are rinsed away.

Ultrasonic cleaners that include irrigation of lumen and robotic instruments combined with the uniform energy distribution of a titanium rod transducer inside the basin, like the Ultra Clean Systems Triton 36 and Triton 72, can provide a thorough clean to prevent instrument damage. They not only deliver detergent to and flush debris from the inside of lumens and robotic instruments, but they also can provide suction and scrubbing action inside joints, crevices, and lumens.3

By properly balancing the frequency and power density of the ultrasonics, these cleaners can effectively remove soils from hard-to-reach areas while causing little to no pitting or wear on the instruments. And by thoroughly cleaning all areas of surgical instruments, an ultrasonic cleaner can prolong those instruments’ lifespan.


  1. Dan Cook, “Instrument Care Begins Immediately After Use,” Outpatient Surgery, 28 June 2021, accessed 12 February 2024,
  2. Herbert J. Kaiser, PhD, Patrick Schwab, MBA, Jason Tirey, MA, “Spotting, Staining, and Corrosion of Surgical Instruments,” Infection Control Today, 1 October 2000, accessed 12 February 2024,
  3. Lawrence F. Muscarella, PhD, “The Benefits of Ultrasonic Cleaning,” Infection Control Today, 1 May 2001, accessed 12 February 2024,