This advice-column-style blog for SLPs was authored by Pam Marshalla from 2006 to 2015, the archives of which can be explored here. Use the extensive keywords list found in the right-hand column (on mobile: at the bottom of the page) to browse specific topics, or use the search feature to locate specific words or phrases throughout the entire blog.
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*From: Marshalla, P. (unpublished manuscript) 21st Century Articulation Therapy.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.