Ask Kara RDH: Soaking gauze in disinfectant?

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Is it OK to soak gauze in disinfectant or does disinfectant break down gauze to where the disinfectant is left ineffective?

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Organization for Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) don’t recommend pre-soaking gauze in disinfectant. Cotton fibers in gauze can absorb and actually inactivate ingredients in disinfectants leaving them less effective or ineffective altogether.1,2 In a study cited by the CDC, pre-soaking gauze showed a decline in effectiveness of 40 to 50 percent after only one hour of soaking in a quaternary ammonium disinfectant.1

Another study cited by the CDC shows gram-negative bacteria can survive and even grow when other disinfectants (phenolics, iodophors) are pre-soaked in gauze.1 OSAP says if you are going to use gauze with disinfectant, it should be saturated with the disinfecting agent at the time of use.3 They state this is “acceptable.”3 To be perfectly clear, these recommendations pertain to soaking gauze; not to pre-soaked, ready-to-use disinfecting wipes in the original manufacturer’s container. We should always remember to use products according to the manufacturer’s instructions. So if the instructions don’t mention that the product can be soaked in gauze, then it shouldn’t be done.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities – 2008. Updated: September 18, 2016. Retrieved from:
  2. Kohn, W.G., Collins, A.S., Cleveland, J.L., Harte, J.A., Eklunt, K.J., Malvitz, D.M. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health-Care Settings – 2003. MMWR 2003; 52 (Report No. 17). Retrieved from
  3. Organization for Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP). Frequently Asked Questions on Dental Infection Control. Retrieved from
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Kara Vavrosky, RDHEP
Kara Vavrosky, RDHEP, is a co-founder and the chief content officer of Today’s RDH, an independent educational publishing company for dental hygienists, encompassing articles, a podcast, virtual continuing education events, and self-study continuing education. Today’s RDH was launched in 2018 after Kara built her social media presence with her largest following on her Facebook page, Dental Hygiene with Kara RDH, which was created in 2013. An Oregon Institute of Technology graduate, Kara has a deep passion for spreading knowledge about the importance of oral health and its association with systemic health. Kara’s passion extends to helping other hygienists understand current protocols and evidence-based research – all with the goal of lifting dental hygienists and the dental hygiene profession. Kara was recognized in 2020 as one of the Top 100 Women in Media for her entrepreneurship as a co-founder of Today’s RDH. In 2022, she was recognized by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association for their Standout Seven Award in the Entrepreneur category. Kara lives in Vancouver, Washington, just outside Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Ben, and their four Chihuahuas. When she’s not working, Kara loves riding the Oregon Dunes on her quad, spoiling her Chihuahuas, and spending time with her close-knit family.