“Wipe with a damp cloth. Do not use bleach” – a review of the cleaning instructions of shared equipment used in a pre-hospital setting

Mrs Eleanor Golling1

1St John Ambulance WA, Belmont, WA, Australia


Introduction: Equipment used by ambulance services are at high risk of exposure to pathogens. While importance of the reprocessing of shared equipment is well documented for hospital settings, there is little research for reusable-equipment cleaning requirements for ambulance services.

Methods: A complete review of the cleaning instructions of the reusable-equipment carried in the ambulance, asking the following:
1) Is there a cleaning section in the Instructions for Use (IFU)?
2) When was the date of the IFU?
3) Are the manufacturers recommended cleaning products readily available in Australia?
4) Is sodium hypochlorite compatibility specified?
5) Are the cleaning instructions practicable for the pre-hospital environment?

Results: 27 items of reusable equipment were identified – 12 of which have parts made from non-wipeable surfaces (fabrics, webbing, Velcro). The majority of the IFUs for items reviewed contained a section on cleaning and disinfection, and IFU dates ranged from 1996 to 2014. 5 IFUs specified compatible cleaning products readily available in Australia. 7 IFUs directly stated sodium hypochlorite must not be used on the equipment, and a further 9 IFUs did not specify bleach compatibility. Common instructions were “wipe down with damp cloth”, and “mild household cleaners only”. Only 5 pieces of equipment had cleaning instructions which are practicable in the pre-hospital setting.

Conclusion: Comprehensive cleaning instructions with clear product compatibilities are required to reduce the risk of pathogen exposure in ambulances. More evidence is required to develop a standardised approach to improve management of this risk.


Ellie is originally from the UK and started working for the NHS in 1997, initially in community mental health before moving to the Forensic inpatient service. After spending 10 years working in mental health, Ellie made the move to general health and into the field of intensive care/high dependency nursing.

In 2012, Ellie and her family decided to try life in Western Australia, and began working at Fremantle Hospital initially in Critical Care, and then with the Infection Prevention and Management Team.

Ellie has recently worked for a large aged care provider, establishing an infection prevention and control programme for residential and community aged care. During this time Ellie completed post graduate studies in Infection Prevention and Control through Griffith University.

Ellie commenced with the Clinical Services team at St John Ambulance WA in October 2016, in the newly created position of Infection Prevention and Control Officer.

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