Finding the Best Mechanical Washers for Sterile Processing Departments

The critical role of sterilization in healthcare facilities cannot be overstated. Ensuring the cleanliness and safety of medical instruments is paramount to patient safety. The right mechanical washer can be a game-changer for Sterile Processing Departments (SPDs) in meeting their productivity and cost reduction goals. But how can you choose the best one for your facility? This blog post will guide you through understanding the needs of SPDs, the types of mechanical washers available, and the factors to consider when selecting the best mechanical washers for sterile processing departments for your department.

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Understanding Sterile Processing Department Needs

Sterile processing departments play a vital role in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, responsible for the cleaning, sterilizing, and storing of medical instruments and equipment to ensure patient safety. However, SPDs face the challenge of achieving cost reduction while simultaneously increasing productivity in their services. Grasping the unique needs of SPDs is key to choosing a mechanical washer that not only meets their requirements but also assures the safety of the personnel handling the products.

The type of ultrasonic cleaner a facility requires is determined by the surgical instruments in-house, the surgical volumes, and the surgical specialties that take place. Employing washer disinfectors like STERIS can bring several advantages, such as fast cycle times with minimal water consumption, enabling facilities to operate effectively while augmenting throughput, diminishing backlog, and optimizing workflow. Additionally, the use of Prolystica Instrument Cleaning Chemistries can maximize superior cleaning efficiency and rate of cleaning in expanding departments.

Mechanical Washer Types for SPDs

There are various types of mechanical washers available for SPDs, such as automated washer/sterilizers, tunnel washers, and single-chamber instrument washers, each catering to different requirements and instrument complexities. Automated washer/sterilizers require manual pre-cleaning and may not be suitable for processing a large number of today’s intricate instruments and medical devices. Tunnel washers, on the other hand, need a single chamber washer to process complex instruments and devices, reducing the impact of maintenance or service.

Single-chamber washers have the ability to bypass manual cleaning and ultrasonic pre-cleaning, and closed-loop automation for multiple single-chamber washers reduces floor space, using a single loading point for racks of soiled material. However, potential buyers should consider the drawbacks of the “closed-loop” automation system before making a final decision.

Innovations in automated material handling systems, such as the Air Glide Shuttle (AGS) system, offer several benefits, including:

  • Reduced capital equipment and operating costs per tray or set
  • Minimized floor space
  • Single-point loading and unloading
  • A traveling shuttle for unload operations

The AGS system is a patented piece of technology designed to reduce floor space and allow for single-point loading/unloading of up to six washers.

Assessing Washer Performance and Effectiveness

Evaluating the performance and effectiveness of a washer disinfector involves considering factors like:

  • Cleaning efficiency: the capacity of a washer to remove soil from items during the cleaning process
  • Thermal disinfection cycle time: the duration taken for decontamination systems, such as washers, to complete their cycle
  • Compatibility with complex instruments

The washer’s capability to accommodate complex instruments is vital for its performance and effectiveness, ensuring it can manage the intricacy of the instruments during the sterilization process. By taking these factors into account, you can make an informed decision on the most suitable mechanical washer for your SPD, ensuring optimal performance and effectiveness in cleaning and sterilizing your medical instruments.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Mechanical Washer

Mechanical washers come in various sizes and configurations, such as single-chamber, double-chamber, and large capacity multi-chamber models. When choosing a mechanical washer for your SPD, consider the automation capabilities offered by the washer, such as temperature and pressure control, cycle time monitoring, and cycle count tracking, ensuring the safe handling of instruments.

Another factor to consider is the ease of use. Mechanical washers are designed to be user-friendly, featuring straightforward quality controls and instructions. This simplicity allows for seamless operation of the washer, minimizing the potential for errors and ensuring the consistent cleanliness and safety of your instruments.

Moreover, the adaptability of the washer to future developments in instrument design is crucial. Mechanical washers should have a degree of versatility that allows for easy integration of novel technologies in instrument design, such as cart washers.

Taking into account aspects such as automation capabilities, user-friendliness, and adaptability to future progress in instrument design, enables you to choose the ideal mechanical washer for your SPD confidently, guaranteeing efficient and effective instrument processing.

Innovations in Mechanical Washer Technology

Recent technological advancements in mechanical washers include closed-loop automation and shuttle systems, which can facilitate the streamlining of processes and enhance overall efficiency. Closed-loop automation helps in reducing the possibility of human error and improving the accuracy of the washing process. Additionally, shuttle systems aid in decreasing the amount of manual labor required to transfer items from one station to another, ensuring the safe handling of instruments and reducing the time needed to complete the washing process.

These breakthroughs in mechanical washer technology offer significant advantages to SPDs, streamlining their processes, and boosting overall quality and efficiency. Adopting such innovations allows healthcare facilities to deliver superior patient care, ensuring medical instruments remain consistently clean and safe to use.


Selecting the best mechanical washer for your Sterile Processing Department is a crucial decision that impacts patient safety, cost reduction, and productivity. By understanding the specific needs of SPDs, evaluating washer performance and effectiveness, considering factors such as automation capabilities, ease of use, and adaptability to future advancements in instrument design, and embracing innovations in mechanical washer technology, you can make an informed choice that best suits your facility’s requirements and ensures the highest level of cleanliness and safety for your medical instruments.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is washer disinfector machine?

A washer disinfector machine is a medical-grade dishwasher that uses a high-intensity spray system to clean and disinfect instruments according to American Dental Association standards.

How do you decontaminate an instrument?

Instruments should be wiped with a sterile, water-moistened sponge and flushed with sterile water. Alternatively, a 6% hydrogen peroxide solution or high temperature glutaraldehyde can be used for disinfection, soaking for 15-30 minutes, followed by thorough rinsing and air drying. Pre-cleaning is essential to prevent damage to instrumentation and equipment.

What are the different phases of the washer disinfector instrument cycle?

A typical washer disinfector cycle consists of pre-wash, wash, rinse and thermal rinse phases, all conducted under specific conditions to ensure optimal cleaning of the load.

What is the function of washer disinfector?

Washer disinfectors combine impingement, water temperature and detergent to clean heat-resistant and heat-sensitive surgical instruments quickly and efficiently, allowing for improved workflow and increased throughput.

What is the role of Sterile Processing Departments in healthcare facilities?

Sterile Processing Departments are critical to providing a safe environment for patients as they clean, sterilize, and store medical instruments and equipment.