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Cleaning and sterilising practices

Information on cleaning practices for special treatments and skin piercing activities


Businesses carrying out special treatments and skin piercing should have good standards in place for cleaning, disinfection and sterilisation.

Cleaning is where you physically remove dirt from work surfaces and equipment.

It's best achieved by carrying out a two stage clean. Remove the dirt with a wet cloth first. Then wipe the surface a second time.

Cleaning does not destroy bacteria.


Following the cleaning stage, you need to disinfect.​

Disinfection reduces the number of harmful bacteria, but it doesn't always kill viruses.

Work surfaces and equipment must be disinfected.

Important: If equipment comes into contact with the mucus membrane or blood, equipment must be thoroughly cleaned and then sterilised. Disinfection is not a substitute for sterilisation.


This is the stage when an object becomes free from bacteria and spores, which tend to survive disinfection.

All staff should be trained in the safe use of any sterilisation equipment.

Sterilisers must comply with British and European standards, and need to be maintained and inspected.

Use of equipment

The use of UV light or glass bead sterilisers are not considered an adequate means of sterilisation.

Ultrasonic cleaners

Ultrasonic cleaners are better than manual cleaning, but you need to remember the following:

  • ​all equipment must be opened and taken apart before being immersed
  • the cleaning solution must be changed after each use
  • when the ultrasonic isn't in use it should be drained, cleaned and stored


Steam sterilisation is the most practical method for sterilising reusable equipment. You should use the highest temperature of steam which is compatible with your equipment.

​Bench top steam sterilisers generate their steam from an internal reservoir. Please be aware of the following:

  • you need to make sure the steriliser has enough sterile water to create the steam
  • the water must be changed daily and never topped up
  • equipment must be placed straight into the basket or tray and not overloaded
  • the basket or tray should be open mesh and have sufficient ventilation holes to allow the steam to penetrate
  • do not place the items you are sterilising into pouches

Vacuum Bench top steam sterilisers:

  • ​must be suitable for the intended load
  • use a forced air removal system 

Items can be placed in pouches with temperature indicator strips. The strips indicate whether the steriliser has reached the required temperature.