How To Clean A Stethoscope Like A Pro!

April 29, 2018

How To Clean A Stethoscope Like A Pro!

In this article on how to clean a stethoscope you will learn:
  • 5 tips on Stethoscope care
  • 1 common habit that damages your stethoscope
  • 3 steps on how to clean a stethoscope

A stethoscope is one of those tools as a student or medical professional that you will use for a very long time. All you have to do is to ensure that you take good care of it. Unfortunately, not many people in this noble line of work know how to take care of their all too precious tool. Below is a comprehensive guideline on all that you need to do and avoid in order to take care of your stethoscope. There are also some instructions on how to clean a stethoscope. That way, whether you are a student or a seasoned professional, you should be able to significantly extend your stethoscope lifetime.

5 Basic Tips For Effective Stethoscope Care And Maintenance

1. Store it safely when not in use

This is mainly to avoid things like scratching and chipping. In this case, the best thing to do is to invest in a storage pouch. You could also try storing it safely in the box it came in whenever you are not using it for long periods of time. This keeps it safe from friction and high impact accidents that could damage both aesthetic and functional components of the stethoscope.

2. Keep it away from extreme temperatures

A stethoscope should never be left near anything too hot or too cold. This means that fires, refrigerators and any other source of extreme temperature should be avoided at all costs. This is done to avoid expansion or conduction of metallic components of the stethoscope including the earpiece. If exposed, the changes could seriously affect the functionality and general sound quality produced by the stethoscope.

Another common mistake is leaving the stethoscope in the car that can be exposed to high or low temperatures.

3. Avoid placing heavy objects on it

This is so as to protect the chest piece and the tubing. The chest piece membrane is very thin. If heavy objects are placed on it could lead to warping and bending that will affect vibrations. This, in turn, affects the quality of sound produced.

With the tubing, on the other hand, the main concern is excessive bending and possible collapse of the conduit. This happens if you place heavy object including books on the stethoscope. It will affect the transmission of sound and consequently the quality produced and the earpiece end.

4. Keep the stethoscope away from direct sunlight

For rubber tubing made out of PVC plastic or rubber, sunlight is a huge no-no. This is because continuous exposure results in hardening of the tubing. The reduced flexibility seriously affects the transmission of sound waves through the tubing to the earpiece.

5. Clean and disinfect on a regular basis

Finally, clean the stethoscope on a regular basis. There are two reasons for this. The first is for the safety of your patients and yourself as well. By keeping it clean, you prevent the transfer of pathogens on the skin from patient to patient. The second reason is to ensure optimum functioning of the stethoscope. You do this by removing accumulated dirt and grime from parts including the diaphragm and earbuds. 

1 common habit that is damaging your stethoscope

When you are out doing your rounds it is very easy to swing your stethoscope around your neck. we get it, it is quick and easily accessible. Here comes the but...

Did you know that oils from your skin and hair follicles can cause the plastic in your tubing to break down and discolor over time? Yes, oils from your skin are very detrimental to the tubing but the effects only show much later. This is one of the reasons your stethoscope tubing can start to crack over time or start to become oily due to chemical breakdown in the plastic. Many stethoscope brands actually include this warning in their manuals.

A good alternative is to keep it in your front pocket or invest in a stethoscope holder.

How To Clean And Disinfect A Stethoscope

So, how to clean a stethoscope the right way? This is a question asked by both beginners and veterans in the medical field. It is one of those things that is pretty simple and straightforward but also very easy to mess up. Below are 3 key steps that should help you not only understand how to clean a stethoscope but also when and where to do it.

STEP 1 - Determine when to clean

Determining when to clean the stethoscope is important as you do not want to over-do it or not do enough of it. In this case, you have three options. The first is to do a general cleaning at regular intervals. Maybe once a week or every two weeks. The second is to give it a light wipe clean after every patient. Finally, you may choose to take the clean-when-dirty route. This works best for earbuds.


STEP 2 - Determine what to clean with

When it comes to cleaning a stethoscope, use water and normal soap. The use of alcohol when cleaning stethoscopes are known to damage the tubing. Prolonged use of alcohol can cause the tubing to become sticky over time.

Instead, use water and mix it with some normal soap.

STEP 3 - Clean and let it dry

In this step, all you need is clean cotton or cloth and the soap solution. Start with dipping the cotton or cloth in the soap solution. Next, gently wipe the surfaces of your stethoscope. For earpieces, you could also choose to deep clean by removing the earbuds for more thorough cleaning.

Next, use a dry cloth and wipe out any remaining soap solution.


Now that you know what is needed to take care of your stethoscope, all you have to do is to put what you have learned into practice. In a nutshell, show it some tender loving care, clean it on a regular basis and keep it cool and dry. That way, you will have it as your trusty companion as you serve for a very long time.


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