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How To Wash a Scalpel

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A scalpel image by Denis Evdokimov from

Used in dissection and surgery, scalpels are exposed to bacteria and germs. To avoid having to discard scalpels after each use, it is important to properly decontaminate and thoroughly clean them. Though lab technicians usually perform this task, anyone with patience and knowledge can complete the process.


Boil 9 cups of tap water.

Transfer the cooled 9 cups of water to a large plastic container.

Add 1 cup of household chlorine bleach and mix.

Put on protective gloves.

Place the scalpel in chlorine and water mixture. Allow it to soak for 10 minutes.

Remove the scalpel from decontamination mixture and dry.


Boil the remaining 5 cups of water.

Place the scalpel in water.

Clean the surface of the scalpel using a soft brush in circular motions.

Rinse away all soap residue using clean water.

Dry the scalpel completely with the cloth.


You can use tap water in both the decontamination and cleaning processes. Be sure, however, to boil the water to kill any bacteria or spores that may be present in the water.

Bar and powdered soaps are not recommended for the cleaning process. Bar soaps have fatty acids that react with minerals in hard water, which leave behind soap scum and residue that is hard to remove from the surface of the scalpel. Powdered soaps do not mix well with the water and may be unable to show the presence of oil, grease and other foreign matters in the water.


Be careful that the soap or cleaning solution used in the second section of the instructions does not contain ammonia or it may react badly with any chlorine residue.

Be careful of the sharpness of the blade; if handled incorrectly it can cut through the protective gloves.

Do not use abrasive cleaners or cleaning tools such as steel wool as both will wear away at the stainless steel exterior of the scalpel.