Cleaning your prosthetic liner or skin fit is one of the most important aspects of a successful hygiene routine. Liners and skin fits can get dirty quickly, especially with heavy daily use. A dirty liner, in addition to causing unwanted odor, can cause a whole barrel of problems that can escalate quickly. Some minor irritation can all too easily graduate into full-blown infection and make it painful to use your prosthetic. Additionally, cleaning your prosthetic often can prevent it from wearing out sooner than it should. Establishing a daily, weekly, and monthly hygiene routine is an important step to making sure you stay healthy and mobile.
Washing your liner or skin fit with a cleaning agent and water is one of the easiest ways to keep your stump happy and healthy. Washing and rinsing should happen as close to daily as you can. The choice of cleaning agent is important to your residual limb health as well. There are a lot of cleaning products out there but very few are well suited to amputee limb care.
So what’s the difference between soap and detergent and which one should you be using to clean your prosthetic liner?
This is a question that comes up a lot and there are many soaps and detergents on the shelf but very few that are formulated specifically for prosthetic liners and skin fits.
At first glance, soap and detergent can seem interchangeable but there are a few key differences that suit specific use cases.
Ordinary soap is made by combining fats or oils and an alkali, such as lye. Many soaps also have additional ingredients in them for fragrance and color as well as moisturizing agents. The additional ingredients leave behind a fragrant and moisturizing residue which is great for your hands or body, but when it’s stuck in a prosthetic all day, the residue can often cause irritation. Soaps also lose their effectiveness and form a scum when used with hard water- also not something you want in your liner. Many soaps also have very high pH values (meaning they can be very harsh to the substrate they are applied to). Although very few soaps disclose their pH’s, a recent study concluded that the majority of commercially available soaps have a pH between 9-10, far outside of the natural pH of the skin (pH 5.4-5.9). The same peer-reviewed article goes on to say that the “Use of soap with high pH causes an increase in skin pH, which in turn causes an increase in dehydrative effect, irritability, and alteration in bacterial flora”. So whether you are using the soap on your skin or your prosthetic, it is important to find the right product to support skin health and keep you moving.
A detergent, unlike a soap, is simply a mixture of surfactants with cleansing properties held in a solution. Also unlike soap, detergents still work even when mixed with hard water. Maybe the most important feature of detergent is that detergents do not leave behind a residue. Detergents can, however, be full of harsh chemicals like sulfates and SLS so some attention to the ingredients can really pay off. Finally, it is best to find a product that is pH balanced and free from dyes and fragrances.
To reiterate, when looking for a cleaning product for your liner or skin fit try to be conscious of what’s in it and how it will interact with your prosthetic and skin. To minimize the risk of irritation and discomfort go for a product that doesn’t leave a residue and with the least unnecessary additives like dyes, fragrances, and moisturizers. To promote skin health and liner longevity a pH-balanced cleanser is best. Ultimately sticking to a hygiene routine can improve liner life, reduce irritation, and keep you moving.