Sanitizing the Tools of Articulation Therapy

By Pam Marshalla

Q: We are wondering about hygiene and the use of tools in articulation therapy. What are the practices you use to keep your multiple-use tools sanitary from client to client?


Adhere to the following sanitary guidelines when handling objects that are used in, on, or around the mouth:

Wood, paper, cardboard, sponge, cotton, leather, or hemp objects should be used once and then discarded. Dental floss also should be used once and then discarded.

Plastic, rubber, vinyl, metal, and glass objects can be cleaned and used again.  These items can be used from one client to the next if sanitized appropriately.

Any object with interior surfaces that cannot be cleaned easily (e.g., straws, coffee stirrers, thin tubes) should be used once and then discarded.

Any object of uncertain composition should be used once and then discarded.

Individual food items should not be shared.


Use a dishwasher with a sanitation cycle to clean plastic, rubber, vinyl, metal, and glass objects between uses. Store them in a closed clean container afterwards.  Or use the following procedures if cleaning by hand:

Wash the tools in dish soap. Rinse thoroughly.

Soak the tools in a solution comprised of one-part household bleach and 10-parts water. Soak for 10 minutes. (Pharmacists have told me that 2-3 minutes in the bleach solution is adequate.)*

Rinse the items thoroughly, allow to air dry, and store in a closed clean container.


I wrote about sanitary procedures in Oral-Motor Techniques in Articulation and Phonological Therapy.  I will write about it again in my next book to be titled, The Marshalla Guide to 21st Century Articulation Therapy (scheduled for publication in 2012-13).

*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. 

0 thoughts on “Sanitizing the Tools of Articulation Therapy”

  1. Thanks for these tips. I have been doing that.
    The elementary school where I work has a no bleach, on site, policy. So I have to drag the materials home to sanitize them. There is no dishwasher in the teachers room. Wish there was a more efficient way.

  2. Are you aware of any non-bleach alternatives available? I have been told that even though you rinse the bleach off and let it air dry, it can still leave a harmful trace of chemical on the tools, albeit super small and seemingly insignificant. It would just make me feel better to use something other than bleach if possible. We currently do use bleach in our speech clinic.

    Thank you,

  3. I found a site that talked about using water and vinegar with orange/lemon essential oil or Theives (a non chemical disinfectant)!

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