Excessive foaming in washer
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In today’s Central Services Environment, the ability to maximize washing productivity while ensuring the highest level of cleaning efficacy can be quite challenging. The goal of any cleaning chemistry is to minimize those challenges, and choosing the right cleaning chemistry plays a critical role in the successful reprocessing of medical devices.

Foaming is one challenge that exists in the cleaning process and can have a negative impact on the cleaning process. Foam can be created by protein soils, poor performing cleaning chemistries, or even water quality issues. Excessive foaming can negatively impact the cleaning efficacy and performance of your washer disinfector, so let’s review what exactly happens inside your washer when excessive foaming occurs.

Deceleration of Washer Spray Arms

Excessive foaming can slow or ultimately stop the spray arm in your washer, which means compromised cleaning outcomes. In a recent study, several commercially available instrument cleaning chemistries were evaluated for foaming properties and cleaning performance in an automated washer disinfector. All tests were performed using a fixed level of protein serum in the same washer disinfector.

In the test shown in Figure 1 below, Brand X on the left is a well know commercially available chemistry, while the detergent on the right is Prolystica Ultra Non-Concentrate HP Neural Detergent by STERIS. Less than two minutes into the washing phase, Brand X exhibits an increased level of foaming. As the level of foam rises, the speed of the manifold spray arm decelerates. This deceleration of the spray arm is the direct result of excessive foaming.

Washing cycle comparison Figure 1. Washing cycle after 2:51

As shown in Figure 1, at just under three minutes into the washing phase the spray arm on the left, using Brand X, has come to a complete stop. The washer on the right using Prolystica Ultra Concentrate HP Neutral Detergent, shows little sign of visible foaming and no sign of spray arm deceleration. For the duration of the washing phase using Brand X, the spray arm remains idle, while Prolystica allows the spray arm in the washer on the right to continually rotate at its original speed.

Learn more and view the complete testing video below.

Potential of Redepositing Soils on Instruments

When excessive foaming occurs in your washer, a concern arises that soils may redeposit onto the instruments in the load. The foam can create a substrate for soils to grab onto, which could then be redistributed onto the instruments during the cycle.

Cavitation in the Wash Pump

Efficiency and throughput is important in every central service department. Excessive foaming can cause cavitation in the washer pump, which will negatively impact your washer throughput. Cleaning efficacy is just part of the issue; if cavitation occurs to a point that pressure drops below a threshold, the washer will alarm and potentially force the cycle to abort. This causes an issue not only because the cycle needs to be restarted (adding time to the process), but it also takes staff away from other important tasks when they must acknowledge the alarm and restart the cycle.

STERIS Cleaning Chemistries

Foaming can occur during your washing cycle and excessive foaming can have a negative impact on your cleaning efficacy and washer performance. Using detergents that are specifically designed for high performance will help your department work towards the goal of 100% clean, 100% on time.

Click Here to Learn More about STERIS Cleaning Chemistries
STERIS University offers additional resources and free CE education on automated cleaning and washing. Here’s a few recommended resources to help your department succeed: