What is material compatibility?

Understanding material compatibility is a vital part of making sure your medical devices have a long functional life. Everything from choice of plastic to selection of disinfectant plays an important role.

Surface + formulation = compatibility

Disinfecting surfaces is a cornerstone of good infection prevention.

That means surfaces in healthcare settings are frequently exposed to hospital-grade disinfectants. If the materials they're made from are incompatible with these disinfectants, it can lead to premature failure.

Surface material and disinfectant formulation are two of the most important factors affecting material compatibility.



'Plastics' and 'polymers' are umbrella terms for hundreds of different chemical structures. Device manufacturers choose raw materials based on physical properties (differing strength, flexibility or thermal resistance), commercial availability or cost of production. Materials used in healthcare must consider an additional factor: resistance to disinfectants.

How does it work?

Healthcare equipment must be disinfected regularly for patient safety. Manufacturers should select materials able to withstand repeated exposure to disinfectants.



Disinfectant products contain a 'formulation.' This is a mix of biocides (active ingredients that kill microbes), solvents and other additives (improving anything from stability to odour). Each one of these ingredients must be carefully selected to balance antimicrobial efficacy with material compatibility. If not, this can lead to 'environmental stress cracking'.

The problem

Environmental stress cracking is the premature cracking and embrittlement of plastic through two simultaneous actions: stress and contact with specific fluids. In cases of material incompatibility, active ingredients, solvents and additives found in disinfectants diffuse into the surface of plastic.


Exposure of susceptible materials to incompatible disinfectants causes the structure of polymers to change and detangle. This makes the plastic weaker and it becomes prematurely brittle.

When combined with stress, fine cracks form. Each formulation has varying compatibility with different surfaces. Amines, for example, are particularly aggressive to rubbers and plastics.


Continued exposure of susceptible surface materials to incompatible disinfectants causes cracks to rupture and deepen.

Cracks lead to premature failure of equipment and make surfaces harder to disinfect: providing a reservoir for pathogens.

The solution

Preventing material incompatibility takes a bilateral approach. Working together:

Our commitment to you

Our products are always formulated to provide both unbeatable efficacy and compatibility. With GAMA, you will never be forced to sacrifice clinical efficacy in order to preserve your equipment.

Our Universal formulation

Every ingredient is optimised for unbeatable clinical efficacy, without sacrificing material compatibility. Our patented formulation is gentle on surfaces, has a near neutral pH and is alcohol and amine free.

Our Peracetic Acid Wipes formulation

The most powerful wipe in the world; gentle on surfaces. Our patented PAA-based formulation reduces C. diff-associated disease by 72% compared to chlorine, all whilst being gentler to surfaces. Near neutral pH, alcohol and amine free.


Why should we worry about material compatibility?

Incompatibility between surfaces and disinfectant can lead to stress cracking and premature failure. Surfaces and devices that are allowed to crack become harder to disinfect: cracks in the surface provide reservoirs for pathogens, protecting them from disinfectants and physical removal.
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Are your wipes safe to use on surfaces?

Clinell surface disinfection products are formulated to be compatible with a broad range of surfaces. Third-party testing carried out, on both the Universal and Peracetic Acid wipes, showed they do not produce amines in their eluate and so do not cause environmental stress cracking through aminolysis. You should always be aware of the active biocides in your disinfectant formulations and ensure there are no ‘hidden’ agents that may cause surface compatibility issues.
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How do I prevent issues of material compatibility?

The best way to prevent material incompatibility is to have a systematic approach to equipment procurement. We’ve put together a checklist of questions (which can be found in the Resources tab below) to ask manufacturers to ensure they have provided adequate decontamination instructions. These are important questions for a manufacturer to answer: evidence-based infection prevention practices are vital to ensure patient safety.
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Whose responsibility is it?

In the UK, regulators place the burden of responsibility on medical device manufacturers to provide accurate compatibility data and guidance for the cleaning and disinfection of their equipment. However, they can't do this alone. Manufacturers of both disinfectants and healthcare equipment must collaborate. GAMA Healthcare works with equipment manufacturers to provide healthcare professionals with robust compatibility data in the interests of patient safety.
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