Sterile antiseptics? Leading Canadian expert weighs in.

January 22, 2018 Kathy McGhie

skin antiseptics

For healthcare professionals, having preoperative care strategies to reduce surgical site infections is important.

It’s been a hotly debated topic in skin preparation: do skin antiseptics need to be sterile?

Most healthcare workers assume that skin antiseptics have been sterilized. The terms “sterile” or “sterilized” can be confusing.

Now, science is providing answers.

surgical skin prep

Dr. Michelle Alfa is a renowned Canadian microbiologist. She has spent her career researching and investigating ways to help improve patient care through infection prevention.

We sat down with Dr. Alfa to help us demystify these hot topics around skin antiseptics. Here’s what she had to say.

Do your skin antiseptics meet Canada’s enhanced standards? Find out.

Can antiseptic agents be sterilized?

When it comes to skin antiseptics, a common misperception is that they are sterile.

According to Dr. Alfa, the current process for sterilizing liquids uses steam, which would actually destroy the properties of the antiseptic agent.

Dr. Alfa explains more:

Why is there no requirement to have sterile antiseptics for use in healthcare?

Dr. Alfa goes on to explain that there’s a big difference between “sterile” and “sterilized.” Also, just because skin antiseptics aren’t labelled as sterile, it doesn’t imply the products are contaminated.

Dr. Alfa talks about that difference:

Understanding sterility markings on packaging.

This can be confusing when you’re trying to understand the packaging. Many skin antiseptics are, in fact, labeled “sterile.”

Dr. Alfa explains that this statement doesn’t apply to all package contents. “Sterile” can apply to applicators that have gone through a sterilization process – but it doesn’t always apply to the skin antiseptics solution inside the package.

What does this mean for you? Dr. Alfa explains:

Want to learn more about skin antiseptics?

Learn more about 3M Skin Prep.

Dr. Michelle J. Alfa is sponsored by and affiliated with 3M.


About the Author

Kathy McGhie

[enBio=Kathy is an award-winning expert in infection prevention and control. With more than 40 years of healthcare experience, Kathy has held multiple leadership positions in hospitals, and on the International Certification Board of Infection Control. Her expertise on the subject has also been published in articles she’s co-authored for several respected academic journals.],[enJob=Clinical and Technical Specialist, 3M Canada],[frBio=Kathy est une experte primée en prévention et contrôle des infections. Forte de plus de 40 ans d’expérience dans le domaine de la santé, Kathy a occupé de nombreux postes de direction dans des hôpitaux ainsi qu’au sein de l’International Certification Board of Infection Control. Elle a également fait part de son savoir-faire en la matière dans des articles rédigés en collaboration et publiés dans diverses revues universitaires respectées.],[frJob=Spécialiste clinique et technique, Compagnie 3M Canada]

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