How to Clean a Dental Chair


Maintaining a clean and disinfected dental chair is essential for providing a safe and hygienic environment for patients. In the USA, dental practices must adhere to strict protocols set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and use EPA-registered disinfectants. This in-depth guide outlines best practices for cleaning dental chairs, with a focus on the specific needs and regulations for USA dental offices in 2024.

Importance of Dental Chair Cleaning

Regular cleaning and disinfection of dental chairs is crucial for several reasons:

  • Infection Control: Dental chairs can harbor harmful bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. Thorough cleaning helps prevent the spread of infectious diseases between patients and staff.
  • Patient Safety: A clean dental chair instills confidence in patients and shows the practice’s commitment to their health and well-being. It reduces the risk of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).
  • Regulatory Compliance: Dental practices in the USA must follow guidelines set by the CDC, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and state dental boards. Proper cleaning protocols ensure compliance with these regulations.
  • Equipment Longevity: Regular cleaning and maintenance help extend the life of expensive dental equipment, saving practices money in the long run.

Supplies Needed for Dental Chair Cleaning

To effectively clean and disinfect dental chairs, USA practices should stock the following supplies:

EPA-registered disinfectantsUse products specifically approved for healthcare settings, such as those on EPA’s List N.
Detergent and waterFor general cleaning of surfaces before disinfection.
Disposable glovesProtect hands from chemicals and pathogens during cleaning.
Face masks and eye protectionShield against splashes or sprays of cleaning solutions and bodily fluids.
Disposable gowns or apronsProtect clothing from contamination during cleaning.
Disposable towels or wipesUse for applying cleaners and disinfectants to surfaces.
Mop and bucketFor cleaning floors around the dental chair.
Vacuum with HEPA filterRemove debris and improve air quality by vacuuming with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.

Step-by-Step Dental Chair Cleaning Process

Follow this detailed process for cleaning and disinfecting dental chairs in your USA practice:

  1. Preparation:
  • Put on personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves, mask, eye protection, and gown.
  • Disconnect power to the dental chair and any attached equipment.
  • Remove any visible debris, such as dental materials or paper towels.
  1. Pre-Cleaning:
  • Using a clean cloth or wipe, apply a detergent and water solution to all surfaces of the dental chair.
  • Pay attention to frequently-touched areas such as headrests, armrests, and chair controls.
  • Use a soft-bristled brush to scrub any hard-to-reach areas or stubborn stains.
  • Rinse surfaces thoroughly with clean water and dry with disposable towels.
  1. Disinfection:
  • Apply an EPA-registered disinfectant to the dental chair using a spray bottle or pre-soaked wipes.
  • Ensure the disinfectant remains wet on surfaces for the full contact time specified by the manufacturer, usually 3-5 minutes.
  • Give special attention to high-touch surfaces and areas prone to contamination, such as light handles and suction hoses.
  • Wipe the disinfectant off with clean water or let air dry, depending on product instructions.
  1. Cleaning Dental Equipment:
  • Remove dental handpieces, ultrasonic scalers, and other detachable instruments from the chair.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and heat sterilization of these items, using FDA-cleared chemical or physical sterilants.
  • For dental unit waterlines, follow CDC protocols for regular shock treatments and testing to prevent biofilm buildup.
  1. Floor Cleaning:
  • Vacuum carpeted flooring around the dental chair using a HEPA-filtered vacuum.
  • For hard floors, use a mop and bucket with a disinfectant solution approved for the specific floor type.
  • Allow floors to air dry completely before allowing traffic.
  1. Post-Cleaning:
  • Remove and discard PPE according to OSHA guidelines for regulated waste.
  • Perform hand hygiene by washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Restock supplies and prepare the dental chair for the next patient.

Frequency of Dental Chair Cleaning

The frequency of cleaning and disinfection depends on the type of procedure and level of contamination:

  • Between Patients: Clean and disinfect the dental chair and replace disposable barriers after each patient. This includes changing plastic wraps on headrests, armrests, and light handles.
  • Daily Cleaning: At the end of each day, perform a more thorough cleaning of the dental chair, equipment, and operatory surfaces. This involves removing all detachable parts for sterilization and disinfecting the chair’s base and other hard-to-reach areas.
  • Weekly Deep Cleaning: Once a week, schedule time for a deep cleaning of the dental chair and operatory. This may require dismantling some chair components for detailed cleaning and running special cleaning cycles on dental unit waterlines.
  • Spills and Splatters: Clean any spills or splatters of blood or bodily fluids immediately using an EPA-registered disinfectant and following OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.

Special Considerations for USA Dental Practices

Dental practices in the USA should keep the following points in mind when developing their chair cleaning protocols:

  • OSHA Compliance: Adhere to OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, which requires written exposure control plans, annual staff training, and the use of PPE and engineering controls to minimize the risk of exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM).
  • CDC Guidelines: Follow the CDC’s Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health-Care Settings, which outline evidence-based recommendations for cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization of patient-care items and environmental surfaces.
  • EPA-Registered Disinfectants: Use only disinfectants registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and approved for healthcare settings. Refer to EPA’s List N for products effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • State Regulations: Comply with any additional infection control requirements set by your state dental board or health department. These may include specific protocols for waste management, instrument processing, and waterline maintenance.
  • Staff Training: Provide thorough training to all staff members involved in dental chair cleaning and disinfection. Ensure they understand the proper use of PPE, cleaning products, and equipment.
  • Patient Communication: Educate patients about your practice’s infection control measures to alleviate any concerns and build trust. Consider displaying cleaning checklists or certifications in the operatory.


Proper cleaning and disinfection of dental chairs is a critical aspect of infection control in USA dental practices. By following the step-by-step process outlined in this guide and staying current with CDC, OSHA, and EPA guidelines, you can ensure a safe and hygienic environment for both patients and staff. Regular training, monitoring, and updating of protocols will help maintain the highest standards of cleanliness in your practice.

As a dental professional in the USA in 2024, staying informed about the latest infection control recommendations and technologies is essential. Attend continuing education courses, read industry publications, and consult with colleagues to share best practices and stay ahead of any new challenges in dental chair cleaning and disinfection.

What is the best solution to use for cleaning a dental chair?

The best solution for cleaning a dental chair is a gentle, non-abrasive detergent mixed with warm water. For commercial options, products like Hager’s Chair Cleaner & Polish are recommended, especially for leather and vinyl upholstery. For a homemade solution, you can use a 10% mixture of non-ionic liquid dish soap in warm water. Always apply with a soft cloth to avoid damage to the chair’s surfaces.

How often should I clean and disinfect the dental chair?

The dental chair should be cleaned daily to remove dirt and debris and disinfected between each patient to prevent cross-contamination. For thorough cleaning, a more comprehensive maintenance routine should be performed at least once a week, ensuring all aspects of the chair are addressed.

Can I use alcohol-based disinfectants on my dental chair upholstery?

It’s important to use caution with alcohol-based disinfectants as they can cause drying, cracking, or discoloration over time. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations for your specific dental chair model. If disinfection is necessary, use a hospital-grade disinfectant suitable for use on upholstered surfaces and follow the instructions carefully.

What is the barrier technique, and how does it help in cleaning dental chairs?

The barrier technique involves using disposable covers or barriers on parts of the dental chair that are touched frequently, such as the headrest, armrests, and control panels. These barriers are replaced between patients and help protect the chair’s surfaces from contamination, making cleaning easier and extending the life of the chair’s finish.

How do I clean dental chair water lines and traps effectively?

To clean dental chair water lines, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific model. Typically, this involves flushing the lines with a specialized dental waterline cleaner to remove biofilm and prevent microbial growth. For dental chair traps, remove the trap, discard the contents, and clean it with a brush and the recommended cleaning solution before reinserting it into the chair.

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