Sanitary Procedures for Therapy

By Pam Marshalla

Q: Can you explain how to follow sanitary procedures when using hands or objects in the mouth?

SLPs need to follow sanitary procedures at all times when touching a client with the hands or other objects in, on, or around the mouth. The following summarizes the basics of: (1) Scrubbing and gloving, (2) Handling objects in sanitary ways, and (3) Sanitizing objects for re-use.*

1. Scrubbing and Gloving Procedure: Adhere to the following procedure at all times when touching a client in, on, or around the mouth:

  • Wash the hands with a sanitizing soap.
  • Dry with a paper towel and dispose of it, OR dry with a cloth towel and place in the laundry hamper to be washed later.
  • Slip hands into protective gloves.
  • Rinse the powder coating from the gloves, and dry.
  • Work with the client.
  • De-glove and dispose of gloves (use gloves with one client only).
  • Wash, rinse, and dry the hands again.

2. Sanitizing Objects: Sanitize objects that have been used in, on, or around the mouth. Follow instructions on a sanitizing solution, or adhere to the following inexpensive guidelines:

  • Wash the object using regular household dish soap and water.
  • Rinse thoroughly.
  • Soak for ten minutes in a solution made from 1 part household bleach and 10 parts water.**
  • Rinse thoroughly again.
  • Allow to air dry.
  • Place in a clean container and store for re-use.

3. Handling Tools and Toys in Sanitary Ways: Adhere to the following guidelines when handling objects that are used in, on, or around the mouth:

  • Wood Objects: Use once and discard.
  • Paper and Cardboard Objects: Use once and discard.
  • Sponge Objects: Use once and discard.
  • Cotton Objects: Use once and discard.
  • Plastic Objects: Use once and then sanitize to use again.
  • Rubber Objects: Use once and then sanitize to use again.
  • Vinyl Objects: Use once and then sanitize to use again.
  • Any object with interior surfaces that cannot be cleaned easily (e.g., straws, thin tubes): Use once and discard.

*From: Marshalla, P. (unpublished manuscript) 21st Century Articulation Therapy. Mill Creek, WA: Marshalla Speech & Language.

**UPDATE 2018: Today, it is not always recommended that we use bleach for disinfecting toys and other items that may go into children’s mouths. Soaps such as Pure Green 24 or Clorox Beach-Free Hydrogen Peroxide Spray are popular, as is using dish soap or the dishwasher when possible. Consider using bleach only when necessary and sparingly. 

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