How to Clean and Reuse First Aid Items

How to Clean and Reuse First Aid Items
2 March 2023

How to Clean and Reuse First Aid Items

Reusing any items in a first aid kit is a sensitive idea. When hygiene and sterility are paramount, is it really safe to reuse anything in a first aid kit? The risk of exposing a wound to bacteria means a heightened risk of infection, so following hygienic procedures where possible is essential. 

But when we’re trying to make sustainable first aid choices, reducing waste where possible is one of the first steps, so if there are any reusable items, it’s good to know what they are and how to take care of them to keep yourself and others safe when you need to administer first aid.

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Which items in your first aid kit can be reused?

Reusable first aid kit supplies should only be those that are:

  • In date
  • Non-porous
  • Uncontaminated

While items like bandages shouldn’t be reused-even if they were only applied over the top of dressings, tools like tweezers and scissors can be one-time purchases that stay in your first aid kit for years to come (provided you look after them and keep them in good condition).

Here’s a list of reusable items commonly found in first aid kits.

Hot and Cold Packs

Use

Managing pain and swelling after soft tissue injuries such as impact injuries and sprains.

How to Maintain

Clean with warm water and soap. Place in boiling water for 15 minutes to kill bacteria.

Safety Pins

Use

Holding bandages together. Fastening bandages to clothing.

How to Maintain

Clean with warm water and soap. Place in boiling water for 15 minutes to kill bacteria.

Metal Tweezers

Use

Extracting grit debris stuck to wounds. Precision tasks when wound dressing.

How to Maintain

Clean with warm water and soap. Place in boiling water for 15 minutes to kill bacteria.

Paramedic Tuff Cut Scissors - Coloured

Use 

Cutting clothing away. Cutting bandages and dressings to size.

How to Maintain

Clean with warm water and soap. Place in boiling water for 15 minutes to kill bacteria.

First Aid Box

Use

Storage for first aid supplies.

How to Maintain

Clean out regularly. Wash with warm water and soap. Dry thoroughly before re-packing.

Reusable Resusciade

Use

Administering CPR.

How to Maintain

Sterilisation via autoclaving.

Which items can’t be reused and why?

Items that cannot be reused are those made of porous materials; usually, these are the dressings and bandages that come into contact with wounds and injuries. But even if a bandage hasn’t come into direct contact with a wound, there’s a chance it’s still contaminated and needs to be properly disposed of.

Here are examples of the non-reusable items in a first aid kit and what to do with them.

ItemReasons for Disposal Disposal Method
DressingsContamination with body fluids. Degradation over time when the use-by date is passed.

Into clinical waste streams if contaminated. Into general waste if not.
Some dressings that do not contain any elastane are biodegradable.

Bandages

Into clinical waste streams if contaminated. Into general waste if not.
Some dressings that do not contain any elastane are biodegradable.

GlovesInto clinical waste streams if contaminated. Into general waste if not.
PlastersInto clinical waste streams if contaminated. Into general waste if not.
WipesInto clinical waste streams if contaminated. Into general waste if not.

Do you need to know how to dispose of used first aid supplies? Read our article How to Dispose of Used or Out of Date First Aid Supplies.

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Recycling First Aid Waste

If you can’t reuse first aid supplies, then what about recycling? In today’s world, responsible businesses and consumers are working together to make the right choices for the benefit of the planet, and one major step in the right direction is reducing plastic waste in healthcare.

Find out about how we made our recyclable first aid kit to produce minimal plastic waste. This kit comes in a 100% recycled materials box, reduced plastic wrapping, and all the premium products we supply to UK hospitals and emergency services. 

Take a look at our knowledge hub for our commentary on plastic use in healthcare and how businesses can work towards sustainability goals in health and safety.

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Eco-Friendly First Aid Range

Discover our selection of high-quality, eco-friendly first aid products. Packaged thoughtfully in recycled materials and designed with minimal plastic use.

How to Clean First Aid Tools and Equipment

There are a few stages when it comes to cleaning and maintaining your first aid supplies. 

Cleaning

The item can’t be disinfected or sterilised until all visible dirt is removed. This means ensuring all surfaces of the item are clean and disinfectant can cover all of them and make complete contact.

Cleaning first aid equipment looks like this:

  1. Inspect the item: remove fluids or dirt by wiping it with tissue paper. Check hinges on hinged tools to ensure they are clear of obstructions. 
  2. Soak the item in warm water to loosen any dirt.
  3. Use a plastic or nylon scrubbing brush and some liquid detergent to scrub the item clean. 
  4. Rinse the item in clean water.

Disinfecting

Non-invasive medical devices like scissors can be sufficiently prepared for reuse once they’ve been cleaned and disinfected. Having gone through the cleaning process, your item is ready to be disinfected.

Disinfectants come in different formats. 

Sterilising

Sterilisation is the most thorough way to clean an item as it reduces the bacteria count to zero. Sterilisation is necessary for invasive medical devices (devices that enter the body through an orifice or piercing the skin).

Some medical-grade sterilisation methods include

  • Radiation
  • Vapourised hydrogen peroxide
  • Moist and dry heat (autoclaving)
  • Gas sterilisation, for example, with ethylene oxide or chlorine dioxide. 

At-home sterilisation can be achieved by placing the item into a pan of water and boiling it for at least 10 minutes, ensuring the item is completely submerged at all times. 

Storage

Proper storage of your first aid tools and equipment is important to maintain cleanliness. Ensure your first aid box is cleaned out regularly and any waste material is removed. If you want to ensure equipment is protected from being touched until you need to use it, consider using plastic ziplock bags. 

Our recyclable first aid kit comes with sterile dressings packaged in medical-grade paper. Medical-grade paper can withstand the sterilisation process without degrading, ensuring dressings stay completely sterile until you use them.

Find out about how we made our recyclable first aid kit to produce minimal plastic waste. This kit comes in a 100% recycled materials box, reduced plastic wrapping, and all the premium products we supply to UK hospitals and emergency services. 

Take a look at our knowledge hub for our commentary on plastic use in healthcare and how businesses can work towards sustainability goals in health and safety.

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