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Causes of Surgical Instrument Corrosion — Staining, Pitting, and Marking

Surgical Residues

Blood, pus, and other secretions contain chloride ions which lead to instrument corrosion most often appearing as dark spots. If blood is left on the instruments for any period of time (20 minutes or longer), the instrument will mark and stain, especially if these residues are allowed to dry. Therefore, always clean and dry every instrument thoroughly after use. Only sterilize a clean instrument. The most damaging procedure is to allow dried-on debris to become baked-on stains in the autoclave. The temperature of the autoclave (250°-270°) will cause chemical reactions that can make the stain permanent and cause instrument corrosion. Remember, an autoclave does not clean; it will only sterilize.

Tap Water

Even tap water can stain an instrument. Tap water contains a high concentration of minerals which can contain chlorine which can be seen as a fine deposit (water spots) on the instrument surface. Rinsing with distilled water eliminates such deposits. Water with high mineral counts left to sit on an instrument can cause severe stains. Therefore, it is important to towel dry your instruments immediately and thoroughly, and never allow air-drying.


The cleansers and cleaning agents you use could also be a cause of instrument corrosion. Strong substances, as well as those containing a chemical make-up of acid or alkaline-based solutions can lead to pitting and staining. Wash instruments with a neutral pH soap (between 7pH - 8pH) that is designed for surgical instruments for optimal results. Anything with a higher pH may damage the instrument. Do not use dish soap, iodine, bleach, cold-soak solution, chlorhexidine-based solutions , laundry soap or surgeons hand scrub. These products will cause spotting and instrument corrosion. Using an instrument cleaning brush is recommended , especially for jaw serrations, teeth and hinged areas.


For more surgical instrument information, please call a customer care representative at (800)783-9251 or contact us via email.