This is a common question fielded by our customer service teams and sales representatives. Often times, detergents are confused with high level disinfectants when it comes to the issue of marking containers upon opening.
Most high level disinfectants must be marked with the date upon opening the container. Instructions for use on high level disinfectants may also require an end date for use. In addition, most high level disinfectants require the use of test strips to verify effectiveness of the disinfectant solution. However, this is not the case with detergents.
The term “shelf life” refers to the usable life of concentrated detergent. Detergent manufacturers place lot numbers and expiration dates either on the label or directly on the container. This date does not change upon opening the container. Concentrated, undiluted product is good until this date before and after opening. Users of detergents should adhere to the expiration date stamp or sticker applied by the manufacturer. Unless advised by the detergent manufacturer in formal instructions on company letterhead, additional expiration dates should not be placed on detergents.
The term “use life” refers to the usable life of the detergent after dilution. Once the product is diluted in pans or sinks, the solution should be changed after each batch of soiled items. In larger ultrasonic instrument cleaners, most enzymatic detergent instructions recommend frequent changes based on soil load. When the solution becomes cloudy or smells, it’s already overused. At a minimum, ultrasonic solution tanks should be drained, cleaned and fresh solution put in at least once every 8 hour shift.
These are important distinctions to understand and apply given the numerous steps in the cleaning, disinfection and sterilization process. Additional questions on this topic can be addressed by our sales and marketing department.