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, is a Co-founder and the Chief Content Officer of Today’s RDH. Kara is a writer of popular articles that share practical advice and tips for hygienists, all in an informative and entertaining way. Beyond light-hearted content, Kara writes researched articles on topics in dental hygiene that educate hygienists on best practices and current protocols. A graduate of the Oregon Institute of Technology, Kara has a deep passion for spreading knowledge about the importance of oral health and how it relates to the entire body. Kara’s passion extends to helping other hygienists understand the latest protocols, products, and research — all with the goal to push the profession forward. Kara lives in Vancouver, Washington, with her fiancé Ben, and their rescued Chihuahua fur-babies, Bug & Ravioli. Beyond her love of dental hygiene, Kara enjoys spending time with her family, riding the Oregon dunes on her quads, and exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest and all it has to offer.