Stethoscope Care and Cleaning — Get the Most Out of Your Equipment


There are many different types of stethoscopes available to suit a wide range of requirements in the healthcare professions, and since they are such a valuable tool, we thought we'd provide some stethoscope care, cleaning and maintenance advice. With proper care, customers report their equipment lasting for decades. Yours can too—however, taking the time to clean or replace individual parts of the stethoscope is extremely important, as well as ensuring that you treat your equipment well over the long term.

Here then, we take a look at how to care for your stethoscope as well as a few stethoscope cleaning guidelines to ensure you get the most of our of your equipment.

Stethoscope Cleaning 

It is recommended that you clean your stethoscope regularly for hygiene purposes and to ensure the longevity of the individual parts of the stethoscope. Regular cleaning is the best form of preventative care, ensuring optimal acoustic performance and that items such as chestpieces, eartips, eartubes and binaurals, and headsets don't degrade. 

To clean a stethoscope, wipe with soapy water or alcohol wipes cleaning wipes. Allow to dry thoroughly in a clean place. Tunable diaphragms should be removed from the chestpiece before doing this and wiped down separately. Ear-tips can also be removed as part of best stethoscope cleaning practice, and either using an alcohol solution or soapy water, you can quickly and easily prevent the spread of bacteria which is especially important if you are ever sharing your stethoscope with anyone else. No one likes getting an ear infection.

To sterilise your stethoscope, you can wipe down with a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution or use a dedicated stethoscope cleaning device. It is important to never immerse your stethoscope in liquid or to attempt to autoclave or use steam sterilisation. Additionally, never use solvents, oils, hand sanitiser or non-alcohol based cleaning solutions as these may damage delicate parts of your equipment while cleaning your stethoscope. 



Stethoscope Care

Caring for your stethoscope on a daily basis is also extremely important, and while medical students are sometimes a little lazy in this department, when it comes to forking out the cash for a new piece of equipment they soon regret not making the effort! Luckily, however, whether its a top of the line 3M Littmann Cardiology III or an entry-level student model, caring and maintaining your stethoscope is simply and pretty much the same. 

Stethoscope Tubing Care

Most stethoscope tubing is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). When exposed to skin oils or direct sunlight for extended periods of time, PVC has a tendency to harden, which makes it more brittle and prone to cracking. If you're wearing your stethoscope around your neck, keep it under the collar of a shirt so it doesn't spend extended amounts of time in contact with your skin or the sun. As a bonus, this also prevents the transfer of bacteria from the skin to the stethoscope and vice versa. Similarly, if you are someone who folds your stethoscope up tightly to squeeze into your already bulging pocket, this can damage the tubing and cause it to split. While this is more common with some of the cheaper stethoscope brands, even Littmann stethoscope tubing is not invincible and needs to be looked after with care. 

Carry Carefully

Stethoscope Carrying Techniques

So what is the best way to carry your stethoscope around? That depends on what suits you best. Fortunately, here at Medshop Australia we have a few options for you. Some people like to use a hip-clip which attaches to the waistband of your pants and securely holds your stethoscope until you need it. Other people prefer to use a pick-pocket or pouch to store their trusty stethoscope and additional gear. Or you may like to store your stethoscope in a spacious lab coat pocket? 

Ear Tips

General Maintenance

Whether it's a fun paediatric stethoscope or a professional cardiology stethoscope, avoid extreme heat, cold, solvents and oils, as these things can cause damage to the tubing and other delicate parts such as the stethoscope head, diaphragm and rim assembly. Additionally, packing away your stethoscope in a box or carry-case, rather than just throwing it on the floor is an excellent way to extend its life. Regularly cleaning your stethoscope is important, as we have already mentioned, but also, replacing individual parts such as ear-tips, diaphragm or rims? Medshop Australia stock a great range of replacement parts for your Littmann or Spirit stethoscopes. 

However, it is also worth remembering that many of the more affordable brands do not manufacture replacement parts. For this reason, if you are looking for a stethoscope that will last you many years, it's usually best to go for a Welch Allyn or a 3M Littmann Stethoscope. Alternatively, take a look at our list of the best stethoscopes here or contact us for more information or guidance when making your choice.

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