Proper Care of Your Hydrocollator
Written by John Riggs III, DC   
Friday, June 10, 2016 12:00 AM
How to Avoid Unsanitary Conditions/Complaints

by John. H. Riggs, D.C., Enforcement Committee Chair

The Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners (TBCE) receives numerous complaints about dirty or unsanitary hydrocollators resulting in the violation of Grossly Unprofessional Conduct (Board Rule 78.1(a)(1)) for maintaining unsanitary or unsafe equipment.

A violation can lead to fines of up to $1,000 per day and even revocation (3rd offense). Frequently, the complaints detail rust on the packs, dirty water containers, and calcium buildup have been noted.

The manufacturers provide cleaning and care instructions in the owner’s manuals. Failing to maintain your equipment can not only result in voiding the warranty, it can also lead to Board sanctions.

Proper care and cleaning of your hydrocollator packs and unit will help avoid Board complaints and costly sanctions. It is difficult to keep these units clean and it is recommended that a cleaning schedule be created that requires signed acknowledgment of completion. Alternatives include electrical hot packs to avoid the mess.

The following steps, while not all exhaustive, will help avoid these issues.

Weekly cleaning of your unit and hot packs is advised.

  • Watch for oozing of the clay in the packs. If the water is turning murky or you see clay, your packs are wearing out and need to be replaced. Inspect for cuts or tears. Clean the packs with soap and water to keep them from developing a musty smell. Boiling will make packs break down faster. Do not use chlorine on the packs or in the unit. With proper care, packs will normally last approximately one year.

  • Clean your unit regularly. It is recommended to change the water weekly. Tap water has chlorine and chlorine damages the stainless steel. It is recommended to use bottled water or purified water which does not contain chlorine to prolong the life of your unit. If you use tap water, you need to inspect your unit and racks regularly for rust. The rust will stain the hot packs and give the appearance of an unsanitary condition. Even though the packs are in towels or pack covers, the rust may bleed into the towel or pack cover and give the appearance of an unsanitary condition, or cause damage to patient clothing.

  • Do not allow your hot packs to dry out (low water levels). Maintain proper temperature and water levels. Packs should be covered by water at all times and not exposed.

  • Unit cleaning can best be accomplished using disinfectant, vinegar and non-abrasive scouring pads.Set up a schedule to regularly inspect your unit and clean it. It is a good idea that all assistants be trained in proper care and maintenance of the packs and the hydrocollator. Another alternative is to change over to using electrical hot packs that draw moisture from the air.

    • Unplug and drain your unit. Remove the racks.
    • Prepare a mixture of 2 cups vinegar to 1 cup water.
    • Using non-abrasive scouring pads and a towel,scour the inside of the hydrocollator and the racks.
    • Use the vinegar mixture to clean off any depositsand build up. Replace or repair rusty areas/parts.
    • Vinegar has antibacterial, anti-viral and anti- fungal properties and is a good non-toxic cleaner. It is often used as a more natural, less toxic cleaner by conservationists. It is also a mild acid (glacial acetic acid) which helps break downdeposits. It also helps to neutralize the smell.
    • Rinse with hot water and refill your unit with non-chlorinated water to cover the packs. It is a good idea to leave the heat on over the weekend to avoid stagnant water creating bacteria.
    • Clean the outside of your unit with stainless steel cleaner and polish it with a polish and a towel.
    • On a daily basis, it is a good idea to look for calcium stains and dried water on the outside of the unit to avoid the appearance of unsanitary conditions. Keeping a vinegar spray mixture close by can help clean up any random deposits and streaks.