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  • Rick

Rusty Instruments?

Have you had trouble with instruments discoloring in the sterilizer? When you remove a load, does it appear the instruments have corroded? While poor quality metals can sometimes be encountered in instruments, a much more common occurrence is the presence of debris on the instruments which bakes on during the sterilization cycle providing the impression of corrosion.





If your instruments are discolored, there is a simple test you can perform to determine if they have corroded or if they are just stained.


As I'm sure you know, corrosion is a chemical reaction of the metal breaking it down resulting in loss of material creating an uneven, pitted surface. If you use a rubber eraser (as you would use to remove a pencil mark from a sheet of paper) on the discoloration, this is usually effective at removing any staining without marring the instrument. If the discoloration is removed and the instrument looks perfectly smooth and intact, it hasn’t corroded. If the instrument is no longer discolored but is pitted or bears other signs of deterioration, then the metal has actually broken down and reaching out to the manufacturer may be in order (as instruments should not corrode in your sterilizer).



If it is simply staining, however, you’ll need to dig a little further to determine the cause. Review sterilization pre-cleaning procedures (debris left after cleaning is one of the most common causes of discoloration), make certain you are using appropriate water in your autoclave (see my post on this topic https://www.dental-techguru.com/post/take-care-of-your-sterilizer-and-it-will-take-care-of-you-r-instruments), and avoid mixing different metals in a load. There are a myriad of other possibilities, but these 3 are the most common and are very easy to identify and correct.

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