Updated: Mar 10, 2022
Cleaning brushes are probably the most versatile cleaning tools in the Central Sterile Supply Department (CSSD). They come in many different bristle materials as well as handle types. You can find them with antimicrobial coatings that reduce the growth of microorganisms. Proper selection of a brush takes a knowledge of the intended application of use.
Some Important factors for utilizing brushes in CSSD have the right size brush diameter, style, handle style, and material. There are french size/brush gauge tools that can help in selecting the proper brush size. Selecting the proper size is important when cleaning lumen devices; if the brush's diameter is too small or too large, you will not be able to clean the instrument effectively.
Bristles come in stainless steel, brass, nylon, and polypropylene, to name a few. Each type of bristle is design for particular applications. Some bristle heads even had tip protectors to reduce the chance of damaging the instrument. Handles also come in various designs and applications. Handle applications are designed for general cleaning, channel cleaning, and specialty cleaning applications like port cleaning, reamers, or burrs. For channel cleaning, handle materials vary in style and come in twisted stainless steel or flexible plastic. Most other styles of handles are made from heat-resistant plastics.
One of the first choices you need to make is whether or not to use single-use brushes. Cost vs. management of your brush inventory is what is at risk. I mention risk because improperly managed brushes can cause injury or infection to your patients. Brush bristles during extended use can become loose and embedded into channels of endoscopes or other devices. Worn brushes also don't clean well. Each time a brush is used, it should be inspected for wear and tear and discard if degradation is found. Determining how many uses you get out of a reusable brush before discarding it will help you determine the cost-per-use. Another factor to include in your cost with reusable brushes is regular disinfection. AAMI's ST79: 2017 recommends that reusable brushes should be cleaned after each use and disinfected or sterilized at least once a day. I have become partial to the plastic flexible handles (shafts) for channel brushes with small diameters. I have found that the twisted stainless steel brushes bend more easily and need to be discarded sometimes after one use.
Whatever brush you decided on, make sure it fits your needs and aligns with the instructions for use for the device being cleaned. Make an informed decision by researching the market. Find a product that provides a low cost per use and provides exceptional cleaning characteristics.
At Evolved Sterile Processing, our consultants have a greater focus on sterile processing. With our decades of experience, we will help you develop better processes and educational resources for your staff.