How to sterilize pruning shears

4 Ways to Sterilize Your Medical Instruments [Book Excerpt]

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

For this month’s posts, I’ve chosen some excerpts from my new book, Living Ready Pocket Manual: First Aid, that I think will especially interest my regular blog readers. If you’ve already bought the book, I’d be interested to hear what you think of these sections.

First up: Here at the blog, I’ve gone into a good bit of detail about treating wounds, but have you ever wondered when you need to sterilize the instruments and dressings you use?

In an emergency, in fact, it’s difficult to keep wounds from getting contaminated. Initially, the main purpose is to save a life, so that’s not so much of a problem, but the longer a wound stays contaminated, the more likely it is to get infected. So when you’ve stopped the bleeding, stabilized the situation, and cleaned the wound, now’s the time to start thinking about making sure the implements you use are sterile.

In my book, I give some tips on how to sterilize instruments and dressings on the run. Here’s the excerpt about instruments.

How to Sterilize Instruments

Unless you have a commercial autoclave and a power source, or some prepackaged sterile products, you’re going to have to make do with what you have and sterilize the best you can.

Before you sterilize, always clean any obvious debris off your instruments. Clean with soap and water or alcohol. Use a cloth or brush if needed.

Quick Methods for Sterilization

  • Heating the instrument. Hold the part that’s going to touch the injury over an open flame. If the handle is also metal, find something to hold the instrument with so you don’t burn your fingers. Heat until the metal turns red; that’s long enough. Then let the instrument cool, and you’re ready. If I have alcohol, I also like to dip the instrument in that just for good measure.
  • Using a disinfectant. If you don’t have fire and you’re in a hurry, you can wipe the instrument off with a clean cloth soaked in iodine, povidone-iodine (Betadine) or alcohol. No clean cloth? Dip the instrument in the solution and stir it for ten seconds.

Sterilization Methods that Take Longer

  • Boiling. This is a good method for larger instruments or those that might melt under the flame. Let the instrument soak in boiling water for 20 minutes.
  • Use a disinfectant for a longer amount of time. Soaking the instrument in disinfectant for 20 minutes is better than the wiping/dipping method.

Besides wound treatment, here are some of the other procedures you might want to use a sterile instrument for:

  • Popping a blister (if necessary)
  • Lancing a boil
  • Draining a finger infection called a paronychia
  • Debriding a bad burn

What about you? Have you ever tried to sterilize equipment in the field? How did it go?

Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Sterilization of metal is a process where germs present on the metal are killed to avoid creating infection from the metal use. Cleaning alone is not enough for sterilization. In addition to a thorough cleaning, you’ll need to apply heat in the form of boiling water. The heat kills the germs without damaging the metal in the process, leaving the metal in a sterile condition and ready for use.

Place a clean pot that’s large enough to submerge the metal into water onto a stove.

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. Rinse the soap from your hands with warm running water then dry with a clean towel. Cover your cleaned hands with a pair of sterile gloves.

Clean the metal with a combination of mild soap and warm water. Rinse the metal off with running warm water. Check the metal carefully after rinsing to ensure that you’ve removed all traces of the soap.

Place the metal into the pot. Cover it with water, making sure it’s completely submerged beneath the water’s surface. Cover the pot with its lid.

Turn the stove on to a setting that will boil the water contained in the pot. Wait for the water to boil then set a timer for 15 minutes. Allow the water to boil the metal for the full 15-minute period.

Use a pair of oven mitts to remove the pot from the stove and place it onto a heat-resistant surface. Allow the pot and it’s contents to cool to room temperature.

Pour the water from the pot. Change into a new pair of sterile gloves and remove the metal from the pot. Use the item immediately.


Store the sterile items inside the lid-covered pot if you intend them for later use.


Sterilization by boiling is not recommended for medical use as some germs may remain or settle onto the metal between the moment of sterilization and the time of use.

By following a few simple steps, you can have clean, sterilized instruments that Use caution when handling sharp items like scissors, blades, and other sharp implements. .. You can also use this method at home for things like baby bottles . In addition to a thorough cleaning, you’ll need to apply heat in the form of boiling water. The heat kills the germs x. Home; Dress Up Place a clean pot that’s large enough to submerge the metal into water onto a stove. Wash your hands. May 21, You may be able to sterilize a needle at home for the removal of a shallow splinter. Here are several methods you can try, including boiling.

Jan 13, 4 Ways to Sterilize Your Medical Instruments . 4 Ways to Sterilize Instruments (Excerpt from “Living Ready Pocket Manual: First Aid of modern medicine, makeshift treatments and Grandma’s home remedies. Jul 2, Do you know how to sterilize medical instruments? Note: always sterilize scissors and clamps in the “open” position. . These days I call Arizona home and am actively pursuing the purchase of a mountain retreat along the. Well, the BEST way would be to run them through an autoclave, but since you don’t have one of those, then some alcohol would be sufficient.

Sep 11, Cleaning and sterilizing the tools gets rid of germs. syringes and needles; scissors or razor blade for cutting the cord; materials for sewing . For this reason , try to sterilize your tools and equipment at home and keep them in. While hospitals, tattoo artists and other professionals might use more stringent methods, you can sterilize many items at home without using bleach or other. By following a few simple steps, you can have clean, sterilized instruments that Use caution when handling sharp items like scissors, blades, and other sharp implements. .. You can also use this method at home for things like baby bottles .

I’ve read about using a pressure cooker to sterilize things like scissors and clamps instead of an expensive autoclave. Has anyone ever tried. In addition to a thorough cleaning, you’ll need to apply heat in the form of boiling water. The heat kills the germs x. Home; Dress Up Place a clean pot that’s large enough to submerge the metal into water onto a stove. Wash your hands. May 21, You may be able to sterilize a needle at home for the removal of a shallow splinter. Here are several methods you can try, including boiling.

Cleaning and Disinfecting Pruning Tools for Orchard Crops

Michele Warmund
University of Missouri
(573) 882-9632

Published: January 26, 2018

Winter is a perfect time to inspect and clean shears, loppers, and saws before pruning shrubs and trees. If blades on pruning equipment were dull and nicked or tore plant tissue after cutting when they were last used, consider sharpening them or purchasing new blades. Replacement blades for Felco brand hand shears can be purchased at a fraction of the cost of new pruners. Even if blades of pruning equipment are sharp, they may need to be thoroughly cleaned to remove soil or sap left from their last use. Use a damp cloth or paper towel or simply soak blades in warm water for a short time to loosen debris. Make sure to dry the blades after washing them. For plant sap that is hard to remove, paint thinner can be applied to pruning blades and rinsed off after its use to prevent corrosion.

Pruning tools should also be disinfected to prevent the spread of pathogens among plants. Although it is not always practical to handle disinfectants when making multiple cuts on the same tree or pruning several trees or shrubs, it will minimize plant loss. Disease organisms may not be visible on tools, but they can be spread from plant to plant during pruning. Several products are available for disinfecting pruning equipment, including alcohol, chlorine bleach, trisodium phosphate (TSP), pine oil, or other household products.

Ethanol or isopropyl alcohol are ideal for sanitizing pruning equipment because blades can simply be wiped or dipped into disinfectant without a prolonged soak. Products sold as rubbing alcohol usually contain 70% isopropyl alcohol and can be used directly from the container. Ethanol can also be used without dilution. Both types of alcohol can be purchased at drugstores or variety stores. Like other flammable products, they should be stored away from heat sources.

Unlike alcohol, chlorine bleach should be diluted to a 10% solution before disinfecting blades of equipment. To prepare a 10% solution, mix one part bleach (using any brand available) to nine parts of water. When preparing a bleach solution, avoid inhalation of fumes, wear rubber gloves to prevent skin contact, and protect your clothing from bleaching. Use the bleach solution within two hours after it was prepared and soak blades of pruning equipment for 30 minutes. Because bleach solutions become 50% less effective as a disinfectant after two hours, make a new solution after this time. After soaking blades in bleach, rinse tools with clean water to prevent corrosion. Although chlorine bleach is inexpensive and readily-available, it is not as effective against viruses as some other disinfectants.

Household disinfectants, such as Lysol or household wipes can be used to sanitize pruning blades, but their effectiveness against plant pathogens has not been widely evaluated. While most household products are commonly available and are not generally corrosive, they are relatively expensive compared with other disinfectants.

Pine oil is available as a multi-purpose household cleaner at some retail outlets. Blades of pruning tools can be soaked in a 25% solution (one part pine oil to three parts water). While not as corrosive as chlorine bleach or TSP products, pine oil is also not as effective as bleach for disinfecting pruning equipment. Pine-Sol products currently sold in stores do not contain pine oil and their usefulness as a disinfectant for pruning tools is unknown.

Products containing TSP are relatively inexpensive when purchased at hardware, home-improvement, or other retail stores, but are corrosive to pruning blades. Products containing TSP are often sold as all purpose or heavy-duty cleaners for decks, siding, or for surfaces in preparation for painting. Like chlorine bleach, TSP products should be diluted to a 10% solution, using gloves to prevent skin contact with undiluted granular material. To disinfect blades of pruning shears, soak them in the 10% solution for at least three minutes before rinsing with water and drying them. While TSP products may be useful before pruning, the time required for soaking limits their usefulness during pruning.

Several multipurpose disinfectant products can be purchased from horticultural suppliers for greenhouse and field use. Some of these products, including Physan, Kleengrow, GreenClean, Greenshield, and MicroBLOC are labeled specifically for ornamental crops, non-food surfaces, packing lines (SaniDate), or cutting tools (ZeroTol). Some products require a ten minute waiting period after application, but do not require rinsing afterwards. Carefully read and follow label precautions when using these disinfectants.

Regardless of the disinfectant used, sanitizing tools during pruning is beneficial to minimize the spread of hard to control disease organisms that have few pesticides available for their control. Since there are many disinfectants available, chose the product that is most practical for your situation.

Apples with fire blight: one reason you should disinfect pruning sheers. Photo by Peggy Greb

Neighbor Anne tipped me off to an interesting fact sheet on disinfecting pruning sheers by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, a horticulture professor at Washington State University. I’ve been using bleach which, it turns out, is not the best choice.

Bleach is both toxic to humans and to plants as well. It also stains clothes and damages tools. Chalker-Scott’s preferred alternative? Lysol. It won’t corrode your tools and is safer to humans. She also discusses alcohol and Lysterine and a few other choices.

The fact sheet concludes with more important details:

• Be sure to clean tools of dirt, debris, etc. before disinfecting.
• After dipping your pruning tools, be sure to wipe away excess disinfectant to avoid injuring
the next plant.
• A longer soaking may be needed for pruning surfaces that are not smooth.
• Like pruners, increment borers should always be sterilized before and after use.
• Never use disinfectants on pruning wounds; they are phytotoxic and cause more harm than good.

(Why do you need to disinfect pruning tools? Because if you don’t, you can transmit disease such as fire blight and dutch elm disease from one tree to the next. It’s best to clean your tools between each tree or shrub as you work. We do this as a matter of course, whether we think a plant is diseased or not. It’s like practicing safe sex.)

For more horticultral myths, see Chalker-Scott’s myth page.

Email this post

Email This Post

This is a guide I’ve been working on for quite a few months now, and while I was going to wait until I had edited it further, added pictures, and compiled it into a printable format, I am presently facing imminent homelessness once again and so at the moment I have to attend to personal matters. That said, I do feel that the information presented here is important to have out there, so I’m posting what I have so far, and I will likely come back to this later. I am also asking that if you have any strong opinions about why this information is dangerous, or that I am “enabling” cutting, that you please don’t harass me about this. I’m dealing with enough as it is at the moment, and I don’t need people trying to shame those of us who practice self-injury on here. If you have any technical corrections though, feel free to let me know, and I will be sure to make what changes I can in the next version.

a harm-reduction guide to cutting:

DISCLAIMER: These are suggestions on how to be safe about self-injury from personal experience, basic first-aid resources, and advice from knowledgeable friends. I am not a doctor or a lawyer, and nothing included here should be considered professional medical or legal advice. I am simply compiling resources and sharing what I’ve learned through my own personal experiences with cutting. As such, be careful and consult a doctor if at all possible for any real medical advice. If you are currently experiencing related legal problems, please consult a lawyer. Use this information at your own risk. I am not promoting or disparaging cutting as a coping mechanism, nor encouraging people to start or quit cutting. I am not attempting to place any judgment one way or the other about cutting. This is simply a resource for those who currently cut themselves, as this information is scarcely available. I am not liable for what you or anyone does with this information, so please, handle with care.

Thanks to my friends Moira, Kennedy & Alexandre for helping out with many of the technical details & fact-checking, and to everyone who has helped me stay alive these past months. <3


P. If you think you might be suicidal, please read this.

I. Introduction

II. Things To Know

(a) Potential Health Concerns & Warnings

(b) Legal Issues Surrounding Self-Injury

III. Supplies

IV. How To Cut Safely: A Step-By-Step Guide

V. In Case Of Emergency: What To Do If Something Goes Wrong

VI. Further Reading

Preface: If you are feeling suicidal, please read this.

– If you are feeling suicidal or have been considering suicide, let your support network (friends, family, partners, etc.) know right away what is going on, and what you need. Make sure you trust your support network, and make sure they will not report you to the authorities, as this can result in involuntary hospitalization or institutionalization which can sometimes only make things worse.

– Know your rights as a patient in your area, this is incredibly important, especially if you do end up hospitalized either voluntarily or involuntarily.

– If you are afraid you might end up killing yourself, make sure someone you trust is around you who can keep an eye out and give you any care you need.

– Make plans with your support network in case you seriously injure yourself, and figure out where you should go and what they should say ahead of time.

– If you don’t have a support network you can trust, consider going to a psych ward or emergency room as a last resort. If possible, ask around for recommendations first. If you are trans*, try to figure out which places have a reputation for being better with trans* folks, if there are any harm-reduction services available, etc.

And remember, it’s not your fault, and you don’t have to feel guilty. Being sick is an understandable response to living in a sick world, and mental disabilities often have no visible cause or explanation at all.

I. Introduction

My name is Amelia, and I am a poor, queer, neurovariant trans woman with psychiatric disabilities. I’m an activist, sex worker, and writer. I’m also a rape, abuse & physical violence survivor, a recovering addict, and I currently practice self-injury. At some point along the way, I realized there were no comprehensive harm-reduction resources out there around cutting, or at least none that were accessible enough to be found after spending hours and hours scouring the internet. The information and resources I did find, were mostly about how to quit, what cutting can be a symptom of, emotional support for people who practice self-injury (very important, but can only do so much), first aid for after you cut & emergency situations (which is important and I will also include in this guide), or what someone should do if someone they know is practicing self-injury. However, there was almost nothing on how to cut oneself safely, and definitely nothing simple, to the point, and readable. I am writing this guide to partially fill that gap, as I feel it is incredibly important to have this information available and accessible. I also believe it is important to have resources available from someone who has personal experience, as opposed to someone trying to guess or make assumptions about cutting.

II(a). Potential Health Concerns & Warnings

Know where your major arteries and veins are, and be sure not to cut over them. It’s best to avoid cutting near them altogether, if possible.

Be aware of where you cut, as it will leave visible scars. Self-injury is often criminalized, and fresh cuts can lead to involuntary hospitalization in some cases.

Some medications or drugs, such as aspirin, can thin the blood and inhibit clotting. It is important to be careful if you are taking such a medication as you can lose a lot of blood if you accidentally cut too deep. This does not mean I am saying you shouldn’t cut in this case, but that you need to be more careful and attentive when you do. It is a good idea to ask your doctor or pharmacist if anything you are taking is an anticoagulant. You do not have to give them a reason why you are asking this either, but if you are pressed about it, I would not mention that you are cutting. Even sympathetic doctors may be legally liable to report you, possibly leading to involuntary hospitalization. (In my experience, good doctor/patient relationships around self-injury involve some form of mutual understanding of not asking and not wanting to know.)

Here is a short list of common medications that are anticoagulants. This is not an extensive list by any means, and once again I am not a medical professional:

  • Estrogens
  • Testosterone
  • Aspirin
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Tagamet
  • Barbiturates
  • Pepto-Bismol
  • Some SSRI/SNRI medications
  • Some anti-anxiety medications
  • Some antibiotics & antiretroviral medications

Here is a more extensive list, but once again this is not professional medical advice:

Be aware of the material your blades are made out of if you have metal allergies. Most blades are made with stainless steel to my knowledge, but it never hurts to check.

II(b). Legal Issues Surrounding Self-Injury

(Due to knowledge & time limitations, I am only providing information for certain places in the u.s. However, much of the information here may still be helpful, even if you need to research the local laws in your area separately.)

Unfortunately, not only are many people’s lives criminalized, the ways in which we cope are themselves criminalized. This goes for self-injury too, especially if you have been previously diagnosed with a psychiatric disability or mental illness. Even if you have not been diagnosed, self-injury can be used as “evidence” to diagnose you with something, regardless of the accuracy of such a diagnosis. It is important to note that simply by being diagnosed with a mental illness or psychiatric disability, many assumed rights become quite precarious. Complicate this with existing forms of institutional racism, disablism, transphobia, sexism, ageism, etc., and it becomes extremely difficult to secure and maintain your legal rights in practice. That said, there are many things you can do to protect yourself and others legally, and the more you have to work with, the better.

General Info:

At least two (in all but a few states, three) forms of court-ordered “treatment” are allowed by state laws. States use different names to describe each, but they all mean pretty much the same thing. They are as follows: emergency hospitalization for evaluation (or, “psychiatric hold” or “pick-up”), civil commitment (inpatient), assisted outpatient treatment (outpatient commitment or mandated outpatient treatment).

Psychiatric hold or emergency hospitalization is typically a short period of incarceration in a mental health facility, usually for a few days.

Inpatient civil commitment is where a judge orders someone to be incarcerated in a hospital or mental health facility for a longer duration, typically up to 90 days.

Assisted outpatient treatment (AOT), is where a judge orders someone to an involuntary treatment plan that they must adhere to, but without direct incarceration in a facility.

The criteria for these all vary from state to state, and it is important to know the laws in your area, and what your rights are there.

Illinois specific:

I am including more specific information about the state of Illinois, because it is currently where I reside, and where this guide will likely be distributed at first. In later versions I may make, I hope to include information about the laws in each state.

Illinois is one of 27 states where involuntary treatment is based on a person’s “need for treatment” rather than the likelihood of being dangerous to oneself or others. While this may sound like an improvement, the criteria for a “need for treatment” is much broader and more open to interpretation by a judge. What this translates to in practice, is a disparity in the sentencing based on the judge’s personal racist, transphobic, & disablist biases. In other words, it means for many of us, that we’ll be more at-risk because judges and cops are assholes.

It is extremely important to note that resisting or refusing to be transported to a mental health facility by a police officer for evaluation or admission may result in arrest and criminal charges. This means, that even if you are unaware of why you are being taken in, or if you are being taken without warning, you cannot legally resist. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done in this situation other than try to keep track of who is taking you, what they have done to you, etc. should you wish to report any violations of rights or police brutality/misconduct. It should also be noted, that psychiatric hold in Illinois is currently for 5 days. During that time, you will be subjected to psychiatric evaluation to determine if they think you need an extended stay.

There are certain criteria however that must be proven for incarceration in a mental health facility, no matter how dubious the claims may be. Knowing these can help fight involuntary incarceration in court, and help to prevent giving them ammunition to use against you.

For inpatient treatment, a person must meet the following criteria:

  • be a reasonable expectation of danger to self/others
  • be unable to provide for basic physical needs so as to guard against serious harm without the assistance of others, or
  • refuses or does not adhere to treatment, unable to understand need for treatment, and, if not treated, reasonably expected to suffer mental or emotional deterioration and become dangerous and/or unable to provide for basic physical needs

For outpatient treatment, a person must meet the following criteria:

  • in the absence of outpatient treatment, meet criteria for inpatient commitment; and outpatient treatment can only be reasonably ensured through court order; or
  • mental illness left untreated reasonably expected to result in qualification for inpatient commitment, and has more than once caused the person to refused needed outpatient care.

Additional Legal Resources & Guides:

III. Supplies

Some of these may not be available to everyone, however it’s a good idea to try and have some around if cutting is something you do often.

  • Gauze
  • Bandages (including elastic bandages)
  • Antiseptic (bactine or 70%+ isopropyl alcohol are suggested. iodine can be used if nothing else is available, but be aware that they induce scarring and increase healing time. also if possible, rinse with warm water, and wait a day or two then wash it with soap as well.)
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Clean blades, non-serrated, preferably single-edge.

IV. How To Cut Safely: A Step-By-Step Guide

1. Wash your hands thoroughly.

2. Use a clean blade, and sterilize the blade before use with isopropyl alcohol (or, less ideally, iodine. if nothing else is available, use a lighter but be cautious as the blade will get hot.), then rinse it with water. Do NOT under any circumstances share blades with others, as diseases such as hepatitis and hiv can be transmitted this way. Even if you know the person you would be sharing with well, it is not worth the risk, however seemingly insignificant. Sterilization is not a perfect process either, and even if you sterilize your blades before sharing, diseases can still be transmitted. If there is absolutely no way to acquire more blades and multiple people are feeling the urge at the same time, I would suggest finding or making a separate instrument and sterilizing that. (Once again, these are my personal suggestions. I’ve seen people get real messed up from sharing needles, even after they tried to sterilize them. A couple folks I used to know got hepatitis that way.)

3. Wipe the skin where you intend to cut with alcohol wipes. Ideally, start from the center and wipe outwards in circles.

4. Make a shallow incision(s) on the surface of the skin horizontally, not vertically. It is best to keep cuts to the bare minimum necessary for your desired result.

5. Pad the area gently with gauze or a paper towel to soak up some of the blood, if desired. If the cuts are minor, it is okay to just let them bleed for a little, but be wary of accidentally getting blood on your clothes, as it can stain and can bring unwanted attention and awkward questions. (I am speaking from personal experience here. It can also draw police attention depending on where you are.)

6. Once the cuts stop bleeding, wash with soap and water, and clean the wounds with an antiseptic such as isopropyl alcohol. This only applies for smaller wounds. If a cut won’t stop bleeding, read the section on bleeding in the next part of this guide. (As I’ve stated before, iodine or hydrogen peroxide can be used, but will induce scarring. I have used all 3 of these, and there is a notable difference in scar visibility.) If bleeding persists and does not stop, see the section below about emergency aftercare.

7. Apply bandages over the wound(s). Keep bandages on at least until the bleeding stops, and allow time to heal.

VI. In Case Of Emergency: What To Do If Something Goes Wrong

As with everything, mistakes are sometimes made. Cutting is often a very emotionally charged, intensely intimate act. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and cut too deep, in the wrong place, with the wrong instrument, etc. Things happen, and I too have messed myself up something fierce. That said, it’s important to know what to do when things go wrong.

Tips for calling 911:

Often, calling 911 can make things complicated, especially for criminalized means of coping. It is important to know your rights, and it is important to make sure to have support. One thing to keep in mind, is how you speak to the operator when you call 911. Ideally, you want to keep calm, and try to not have a lot of noise or yelling in the background. If an emergency situation comes off as having potential for violence or anything else deemed criminal, police will also be dispatched which is what should be avoided. It may be a good idea to tell them that your friend has passed out or had an accident, or something similar but that it’s urgent. You do not need to say if self-injury or drugs are involved (though, once the paramedics arrive it is important to let them know of any drugs in the person’s system).


Sometimes, severe cuts or other injury can cause your body to go into hypovolemic shock. Shock is life threatening and can kill you. If you think you are going into shock, call an ambulance. Shock tends to make itself worse, so it is critical to get medical attention quickly.

Symptoms of shock may include:

  • confusion, restlessness & irritability
  • dizziness, faintness & nausea
  • pale, clammy, moist skin
  • hypothermia
  • cold & mottled skin, especially in extremities
  • rapid breathing
  • rapid, weak pulse

Treating shock:

  • Call 911
  • Lie down
  • Control external bleeding (see below)
  • Try to maintain body temperature. If you notice you are experiencing hypothermia, try to cover yourself with a blanket or something similar.
  • Do not eat or drink, even if you feel thirsty which will be likely.
  • Do not raise your head.
  • If possible, try to keep your legs elevated about 12 inches.


If a cut won’t stop bleeding, first try pressing cloths, paper towels, or any sort of substitute bandage directly on top of the wound. Then, place a large object (like a balled-up sock) over the bandage, and wrap the entire thing tightly in an elastic bandage (or, if not available, gauze). Keep the wound above your chest and check in about 10-15 minutes. If it’s still bleeding, re-wrap it and go to an emergency room.


Infected cuts are a big risk should you be unable to keep cuts or wounds clean. This applies to small cuts and wounds just as much as larger ones that may need stitches. That said, infection can be easily avoided under most circumstances.

If a cut or wound is infected, it will likely show some of the following:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Drainage & Pus
  • Local Fever (meaning that the cut will feel hotter than areas around it)
  • Increased or Sustained Pain
  • Bad Odor
  • Not Healing

Should an infected wound go untreated, it may end up becoming a full-body infection, which can cause serious problems and needs immediate medical attention. Warning signs for a full-body infection are:

  • Fever (over 100°F)
  • Nausea
  • Aching

Those with decreased immune function should take extra care to prevent infection as you will be at higher risk. It is important to change wound dressings (bandages, cloth, etc.) daily, and wash your hands and the wound before touching the wound or applying dressings each time. If a wound gets infected, try to find antibiotic ointment of some kind (which you can get at most drug stores or some supermarkets.) If you develop a full-body infection, oral antibiotics should be taken (unless you have an allergy or they will cause complications for you). That said, it really is best to see a doctor or go to the emergency room in this case, but I also know that far too often it’s just not feasible, especially without a stable income, housing, or insurance. So please, take care of yourselves and don’t let something go too long without help if you can help it.

VI: Further Reading

Self-harmers ‘should get clean blades’

If the nurses’ proposals are adopted, patients could be taken to a safe place where they would be watched and given advice while they cut themselves. The move will be proposed at the RCN Congress by the organisation’s mental-health nursing forum.

Ian Hulatt, mental health adviser for the RCN, said: “There is a clear comparison with giving clean needles to reduce HIV. We will be debating introducing a similar harm-reduction approach.

“This may well include the provision of clean dressing packs and it may mean providing clean sharps.

“Nurses who encounter individuals who self-harm on a regular basis face a dilemma. Do they go for prohibition – or do we allow this to occur in a way that minimises harm?”

Mr Hulatt was backed by Jeremy Bore, vice-chairman of the RCN’s prison forum, who said: “We should give patients clean blades and a clean environment to self-harm, and then access to good-quality dressings.

“My instinct is that it is better to sit with the patient and talk to them while they are self-harming. We should definitely give advice on safer parts of the body to cut.

“It could get to the state where we could have a discussion with the patient about how deep the cuts were going to be, and how many.”

The Patients Association criticised the proposal. Katherine Murphy, the organisation’s director of communications, said: “Supplying individuals who self-harm with blades cannot be good for them. By giving self-harmers the tools they need, the nurses could be seen as encouraging individuals to harm themselves.”

Research has found that self-harm is most common among girls aged 15 to 19, but rates are also rising among men in their early twenties.

The ChildLine help service takes more than 4,000 calls a year about self-harm – many from children trying to cope with physical or sexual abuse, bullying or family breakdown.

Quick Links


Infection can occur during hairdressing procedures. Items such as razors, combs, clippers and hairpins can accidentally penetrate the skin. Blood and body fluids do not have to be visible on instruments, equipment or working surfaces for infection to be transmitted. Both clients and operators may be at risk.

Operators should ask clients if they have skin lesions such as prominent moles and require them to specify the location, so appropriate care can be taken. If hairdressing premises perform other personal care and body decorating procedures, including skin penetration, then the operators must comply with the NSW Health Departments Skin Penetration Guidelines.

Risk Infection

Infections that can be spread in hairdressing premises include skin infections on the scalp, face and neck such as impetigo (also known as school sores) and fungal infections such as tinea capitis and ringworm. These infections can spread when instruments and equipment used on clients are not cleaned between clients sessions or are not handled or used a hygienic manner, and when structural facilities such as furnishings and fittings are not kept clean and in good repair.

Blood-Borne Viruses

The risk of transmitting a serious disease such as hepatitis B and HIV can occur when using razors or scissors, which can abrade the skin and/or cut accidentally. Contaminated instruments can transfer infection directly to the blood of another individual (for example, the operator or next client) if that individual has open cuts,sores or broken skin.


Burns can occur during hairdressing procedures involving hot rollers, tongs and crimpers. They can also occur when hair is being washed with water that is too hot or when stationary or hand-held dryers are improperly used.

Pediculosis (Head Lice)

People get head lice from direct hair-to hair contact with someone who has head lice. Head lice do not transmit any infectious diseases and there is no evidence to suggest that the environment is of significant concern in their transmission. They are fragile insects, easily killed by water temperatures greater than 60c. No disinfection or fumigation of the salon is required.

General Hairdressing Equipment

Use and Disposal of Razors and Blade

All razors are considered to be contaminated with blood, body fluids or substances after use. Routine cleaning of razors blades is not adequate to minimise the risk of transmission of blood-borne diseases. The safest and most efficient way of preventing the spread of these diseases is to use single-use items.

Single Use (disposable) Razors

If the razor is a single-use type, then it must not be used again on another client and must be disposed of into a sharps container immediately after use.

Single Use (disposable) Blades

Where a safety type razor is used, remove the blade from the razor body, taking care not to cut yourself. Dispose of the blade as above. The blade holder must be cleaned and disinfected between clients. If contaminated, it must be sterilised or disposed of. Do not use the body of the razor again until these measure have been taken.

Electric Razors

Electric razor blades are considered contaminated with blood, body fluids or substances after use in the same way that razors and blades are contaminated. The blades, mesh and the blade mechanism housing are difficult to clean and will not withstand the sterilisation process. This difficulty is due to their design and the materials from which they are made. Debris from shaving such as blood, hair and skin cells have been found in the body and motor of electric razors. Electric razors are therefore not recommended for use on clients and should not be loaned to clients.

Razor Cutting

Razors should be used so the operator can see the blade at all times. Blades may scrape the skin and become contaminated. Razor blades used for hair cutting should be changed after each client, and the blade should be disposed of into a sharps container. The handle should be washed and dried after the blade has been removed; if contaminated, it also requires sterilisation.


Clippers should be used in such a way that the operator can see the tip of the clippers at all times. Clippers, including those with plastic attachments, should be dismantled after each use and thoroughly cleaned before being used on another client. If contamination occurs, then the clipper blades must be dismantled, cleaned and sterilised. Plastic attachments must be disposed of into a sharps container.

Cleaning and Sterilisation of Hairdressing Equipment

The use of disinfection products requires operators to apply these solutions in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s directions. Due to the inappropriate use of disinfection products in the past the use of disinfecting solutions is not recommended.

The table below provides a guide on cleaning requirements for equipment commonly used in the hairdressing industry.




Singe-use razors After each client Dispose of into a sharps container
Safety razors After each client Dispose of blade into a sharps container. Wash handle in warm water & detergent. Rinse in hot running water. Dry with lint-free cloth. If contaminated sterilise or dispose of into a sharps container.
Electric razors Do not use
Shaving brushes After each client Rinse free of hair & shaving cream. Wash in warm water & detergent. Rinse in hot running water. Dry thoroughly.
Scissors & Clippers After each client Use lint-free cloth to remove hair. Wash in warm water & detergent. Rinse in hot running water. Dry with lint-free cloth.
Haircutting razors After each client Sterilise or dispose of if blood is drawn. Dispose of blades into sharps container.
Combs, hair brushes, hairnets, neck brushes, ear caps & hair pins / clips After each client and when dropped on the floor Use lint-free cloth to remove hair. Wash in warm water & detergent. Rinse in hot running water. Dry with lint-free cloth.
Rollers (regular, hot, hot tongs & crimpers) After each client and when dropped on the floor Use lint-free cloth to remove hair. Wash in warm water & detergent. Rinse in hot running water. Dry with lint-free cloth.
Dye mixing bowls When empty Wash in warm water & detergent. Rinse in hot running water. Dry with lint-free cloth.
Capes / Wraps After each client unless a clean towel or paper tape is used around the neck Wash in warm water & detergent. Rinse in hot running water. Dry according to type of material.
Equipment Trolley Weekly Use lint-free cloth to remove hair. Wash in warm water & detergent. Dry thoroughly with lint-free cloth before refilling.

Sanitary Requirements of the Premises

  • The premises must be kept in a clean and hygenic condition at all times.
  • All surfaces within the salon should be made of materials that are easily cleaned
  • Adequate lighting is to be provided within the salon
  • A hand wash basin must be provided within the salon with warm running water and a supply of disposable paper towls and liquid soap
  • An additional sink is to be provided for cleaning of equipment and surfaces. Smoking is not permitted in any part of the salon


  • Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 – Schedule 2, Parts 2 & 3

NSW Health Fact Sheet

  • Fact Sheet “Hairdressing and Barbers – hygiene standards” (Oct 2012)
  • Fact Sheet “How to sterilise your instruments”

VIC Health Fact Sheet

  • Head Lice Fact Sheet for Hairdressers (June 2013)

Council’s Role in Regulating Hairdressing Salons

Council’s Environmental Health Officers routinely inspect hairdressing salons.

The objectives of Council’s inspections are:

  • To ensure the health of the public is protected when they receive treatments or services from a premises;
  • To ensure operators are aware of their obligations to carry out safe, clean and hygienic procedures; and
  • To ensure that the premises where procedures are undertaken comply with the relevant standards
  • Beauty Spot Newsletter Issue 1


Any enquiries regarding hairdressing premises or procedures can be made to Council’s Public and Environmental Health Section on 02 6686 1210.

Disinfecting Your Garden Tools

Disinfecting and sterilizing your horticultural tools is a good way to prevent the spread of disease-causing pathogens in your landscape. There are a number of products that can be used to disinfect tools and gardening surfaces, and each has advantages and disadvantages.

Cleaning and disinfecting are two distinct steps. Cleaning involves physically removing soil and debris and is the first step prior to disinfecting your tools. Soil and other organic residues reduce the effectiveness of disinfectants. Before disinfecting, always remove dirt, debris, or sap by wiping your tools with a damp cloth or paper towel.

Household Disinfectants

The advantages to using household disinfectants, such as Lysol, to clean are that they’re easy to find and most aren’t corrosive. The disadvantage is that little research has been done regarding their effectiveness against plant pathogens. Additionally, household disinfectants are relatively expensive when compared to other disinfectants that can be used on horticultural tools. How you use household disinfectants will vary depending on what product you are using. Generally you will want to apply a full strength spray or dip; always be sure to read the label first. Commercial household disinfectants are widely available at a variety of stores.

Chlorine Bleach

Chlorine bleach is inexpensive, effective, and easy to find. However, it is corrosive, can produce harmful fumes, and isn’t as effective against viruses as some other products. To use chlorine bleach to disinfect horticultural tools, mix up a 10% bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) and do a 30-minute soak. The solution has a short lifespan—effectiveness is cut in half after two hours—so fresh batches should be made for each round of cleaning .Rinse tools with clean water after soaking to prevent corrosion.

Ethanol or Isopropyl Alcohol

The advantages of alcohol (ethanol or isopropyl) to sanitize your gardening tools is that it can be used as a wipe (no soaking necessary), you don’t have to rinse the product off, and it’s immediately effective. The disadvantage of alcohols? They’re very flammable. To disinfect your tools with alcohol you can either wipe or dip them in a solution that is 70–100% alcohol. Ethanol and isopropyl alcohol are widely available at a variety of stores.

Trisodium Phosphates (TSPs)

Trisodium phosphates (TSPs) are inexpensive; the disadvantage is that they are very corrosive. To sanitize with TSP, mix a 10% solution (one part TSP to nine parts water) and let the tools sit in the solution for at least three minutes. When using TSP take care to avoid contact with your skin; the granules can cause nasty chemical burns if they stick to your skin and become wet. Many commercial TSP products are available at hardware stores and home-improvement centers. You may find TSPs in areas with painting products, as it’s commonly used to clean surfaces prior to painting. Pay attention to the label; there are synthetic versions of TSP that are useless for tool disinfecting.

Pine Oil Products

Pine oil products are not as corrosive as some other disinfecting products on the market, but they’re also not as effective. To use pine oil products, mix a 25% solution (one part pine oil to three parts water) and then soak the tools in the solution. Many commercial products are available at grocery and hardware stores and at home-improvement centers.

Industrial Products

There are several different types of disinfectants use in commerical agriculture, typically available only through horticulture-supply vendors. There are quaternary ammonium compounds, commonly called “quats” or “q-salts”, used to control fungal, bacterial, and viral plant pathogens. Products include Green-Shield® and KleenGrow™. There are also hydrogen dioxides, which are labeled as a disinfectant for use on greenhouse surfaces, equipment, tools, and for use on plants. Products included ZeroTol® 2.0 and Oxidate® 2.0.

Keep It Clean

Regardless of which product you choose, being diligent about keeping your tools clean is very important to keeping your plants healthy. A longer soaking may be needed for pruning surfaces that are not smooth. Ideally tools should be disinfected after working on every plant; however, this is usually not practical. If possible, rotate between several tools while working in the garden. That way, one tool can be disinfected while you work with another. After dipping your pruning tools, be sure to wipe away excess disinfectant to avoid injuring the next plant.

Whether you have one tool for the whole garden or many you rotate between, it is important to sterilize as frequently as possibly. Remember, clean garden tools are an important part of garden sanitation, and can prevent the spread of disease-causing pathogens. For more information on sterilizing your garden tools or dealing with disease in your landscape, contact your local county Extension office.

UF/IFAS Publications

  • Disinfection of Horticultural Tools

Tool Maintenance

Josh Byrne

Good tools really are a gardeners’ best friend. And for good reason. They make our working lives so much easier. And if we look after them, they are safer to use, they reduce the chance of spreading diseases, with plants and of course, they’ll save you money in that they’ll last for years. Let’s start with pruning gear.

Secateurs and loppers should be kept clean, sharp and dry. These have been a bit neglected, but will soon be brought back into top shape. Rubbing the cutting surfaces with a scourer dabbed in methylated spirits will remove gummy sap and flecks of rust. Wipe dry and it’s ready for a sharpen. Bypass cutters like this are easily sharpened by running a sharpening stone along the cambered blade edge. And finally, just wipe it over with an oily rag to prevent it from rusting. Good as new.

Secateurs can me maintained the same way. It’s a good idea to wipe the secateurs down with warm, soapy water after each pruning session, to keep them nice and clean. Then rub the blades with vegetable oil to prevent them from rusting. Now this is particularly important when pruning plants with a high sap content because the sap can actually be quite corrosive. And if the blade seems blunt, run a sharpening stone over it. A stone like this costs about $10 and a light sharpening is simple to do.

Sometimes the blades can be nicked or bent, and with good seckies it should be easy enough to dismantle them and replace the blade. First, remove the top nut. Undo the bolt at the bottom, remove it and the secateurs will fall apart. The damaged blade is easily lifted off. Give the secateurs a good clean with soapy water and oil them, not forgetting the spring. Toss away the old blade and fit the new one into the slot on the handle and then bolt the two halves together. Fit the spring, and your blunt, rusty secateurs are now cutting as sharply as new.

Pruning saws should also be kept clean and a nailbrush is perfect for this. Dipping it into bleach or tea tree oil will sterilise it which is a good idea before pruning prize plants or if you suspect a plant is diseased.

Short-handled spades like this are great for cutting into roots and dividing up plants and sharpening the edge of the blade makes this job a breeze. An axe sharpening stone does the trick here. Sanding down this old handle will remove splinters and oiling it with a mix of linseed oil and turpentine will help preserve the wood.

I’ve treated myself to a flash new ergonomically sound planting spade and to keep it in top nick and prevent it from rusting, I’ve made up an oily sand mix simply by adding ‘bricky’ sand and vegetable oil into a bucket and stirring it up. And by sliding the spade in and out of that mix, it’ll wipe off any muck and most importantly, coat the blade with a fine layer of oil which will prevent it from rusting.

Good tools are worth looking after and if you make the effort, chances are they’ll be digging ’round the daisies that you’ll be pushing up.

STEPHEN RYAN: I have to say I’m jealous of Angus. He’s got to spend time in our national capitol in one of the world’s great botanic gardens.

Garden tool care

Tool quality

It pays to invest in good-quality tools. Pruning saws should be firm and sharp. Spades, forks, hoes, rakes and shovels should be sturdy with solid handles and hardened steel parts, which do not bend easily. Secateurs and other cutting tools should have removable blades and adjustable mechanisms.

Machines, like lawn mowers, whipper snippers, chain saws and hedge trimmers should be easy to clean and sharpen.


Keeping the tools in a dry shed, preferably on a hanging rack, after they have been washed and sterilised is a major step towards good ‘tool-care’. Smaller tools should be located for easy access on a shelf.

Proper storage will prevent the metal parts from rusting and the wooden handles from disintegrating.

Store chainsaws and hedge trimmers with their cover in place, to prevent injuries.

Tool maintenance

Make sure electrical tools are safe, which means they are properly insulated. If the power cord is damaged have it replaced. It is very important to prevent electrical tools from getting wet.

Keep your wood handled tools in good shape by sanding regularly and applying boiled linseed oil. This will prevent the wood from drying out, cracking and splintering.

Apply lubricant to the movable parts of your tools, to ensure smooth operation and to prevent rust from forming.

If rust has already formed clean with a rust remover.

Simple sharpening tools like files and hand held sharpeners can be used to hone your tools.

Secure your tool and use a file to sharpen the angle, where the tool was previously sharpened. Push the file in one direction until the entire edge is shiny. Protect the sharpened edge against corrosion by applying a small amount of grease.

For smaller tools like pruning shears or loppers, use a small diamond stone for sharpening. The diamond stone can be used like a file. Secure the blade of your tool and file down the previously sharpened edge. Then switch to your fine side and sharpen using the same angle. Your edge is now ready for use.

If you feel the edge starting to get dull again, you can skip the coarse grit and just use a few strokes with the fine stone to keep your tool in good shape.

Keeping tools clean and sterile

Because tools like spades, trowels, hoes, garden forks and wheel barrows are exposed to dirt and moisture, they transmit soil fungi, weeds and nematodes between garden beds. They should be cleaned and preferably sterilised after every job.

Wash the dirt off with your garden hose and if necessary scrub the tools with a brush. Disinfect the tools with a 2% solution of household bleach (sodium hypochlorite) before storage or using them in a different location. Dry your tools thoroughly before putting them away.

Tools, which come into contact with plants, like secateurs and shears, may transmit fungi and viruses. They should be cleaned and sterilised between trees. Use turpentine, to remove stubborn sap, wipe and sterilise the tool. Remember; be careful as you wipe the blades as they are very sharp.

If rust has built up on your tools, remove it with a rust remover.

Disinfectants for garden tools

Alcohol, household cleaners and bleach can be used to sterilise tools. Choose a disinfectant that is readily available, affordable and relatively safe to handle. Some disinfectants, which are used for pruning, are phytotoxic and need to be dried off before use on the next plant. Avoid cutting active, oozing cankers; wait until they dry.

Clean Clip Tips: Disinfect Your Tools to Prevent Disease

One of the best ways to prevent the spread of fungus and other plant diseases is to prune out infected parts. However, once you make a cut in the diseased plant, fungus spores and other pathogens can cling to your cutters. Then, when you move on to prune a healthy plant you could end up transferring diseases via the infected shears.

So…what to do? We all know that nothing works like bleach in killing germs. But does it work just as well for disinfecting your garden tools?

In 1992, scientists at Kearney Agricultural Center in California’s Central Valley tested various readily available and commonly recommended disinfectants. The products tested were:

o Chlorine bleach

o Hydrogen peroxide (3%)

o Listerine (at full strength)

o Lysol (regular, containing o‑phenyl‑phenol)

o Pine-Sol (19.9 percent pine oil)

o Rubbing alcohol (70% and above)

The scientists found that soaking or spraying pruning blades for a minute or longer in either a full-strength or a 1-to-5 solution of chlorine bleach, Lysol, or Pine-Sol brought the most consistent protection. Interestingly, just dipping the blade quickly often did not disinfect properly. Chlorine bleach generally did a better job for quick dips, although none of the disinfectants proved completely effective.

Since this study was done, more convenient disinfectant methods have emerged. For example, Clorox now sells disposable bleach-free disinfectant wipes in a pop-up container. These work great for cleaning jobs on smaller tools such as pruners, trowels and knives. Use as many wipes as it takes to completely remove all infected plant sap from tool surfaces and blades. Clorox claims the wipes can kill several types of bacteria in 30 seconds.

For larger tools (like shovels and shears) that have been in contact with an infected plant, use paper towels to remove all dirt and sap. Then soak the tool in a mix of 1 gallon water and 2 cups bleach for 10 minutes. Wipe the tool dry, and oil it promptly to discourage corrosion. Dilute the bleach water thoroughly before discarding.

Other options include keeping a small spray can of Lysol or a small bottle of rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide in your gardening bucket with some clean old rags.

A couple of environmentally-friendly disinfectant products have recently entered the market. Some gardeners recommend Physan 20, a broad-spectrum fungicide and disinfectant. (Physan is toxic to fish, however, and should not be used for or near fish ponds.) You can read more about it at

The future of fungicide elimination may be in a product called Oxidate. Organic farmers have been saying great things about this hydrogen dioxide product, which kills bacteria, fungus, algae and their spores immediately on contact. It is currently recommended for use by commercial growers only. And, it’s not cheap: 2-1/2 gallons will set you back around $140.

Whatever disinfectant method you choose, be sure to keep your tools clean and sharp. Lastly, if you don’t regularly wear gardening gloves, be sure to wash your hands frequently when touching plants.

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