Suctioning Equipment

There are many factors to consider when purchasing new equipment. Thinking about how easy or difficult it will be to comply with provincial standards for cleaning, disinfection or sterilization before purchasing each item will save time, trouble and money in the long run.




What are the cleaning requirements?
  • The parts of the mechanical suction machine which come into contact with the infant’s mucous membranes are classified as semi-critical.
  • Parts that routinely come into contact with a patient’s saliva and mucus (e.g., catheter, tubing, filter and canister) are always single-use.
  • The machine and cord require low-level disinfection (LLD).


Can I clean it?
  • Sales sheets and product information for suctioning equipment may be misleading. Just because cleaning and disinfection methods are described does not mean that the suction device is intended for multiple patient use. Check the fine print in the manufacturer’s instructions, as some types of suction machines marketed to Ontario midwives are not suitable for reuse.


Are there better or easier to clean alternatives?
  • Effective LLD methods for the cord and machine may not be approved by any manufacturer for any brand.
  • There may be no ideal choice, but look for choices which can be disinfected without impacting function. Question suppliers and manufacturers reps about


What is the IPAC plan for this item?
  • Ensure the suction unit is approved for multi-patient use.
  • Do not clean or reprocess disposable components (ensure spares of disposable parts, such as the canister, are always available).
  • Choose a health care approved disinfectant for reusable, non-critical components such as the machine and cord.


For general considerations and links to other equipment, see the AOM’s Equipment Purchasing Guide.

Brands and Types of Suctioning Equipment

Manufacturers’ instructions for use of suctioning equipment change over time. The following summaries were prepared by the AOM in 2019 to assist midwives with their purchasing decisions. The summaries also identify problems that may occur as a practice tries to comply with MIFU for different brands. Consult the most recent MIFU for the brand you are considering before purchase.


  • All DeVilbis brand portable suction machines carry a stern warning about using their machines on more than one person.

DeVilbiss® Vacu-Aide® Compact Suction Unit Instruction Guide

Note – If the following processing of the unit by a qualified DeVilbiss provider/technician is not possible, the unit must not be used by another patient!


  • Because it is impractical for a midwife to have the suction unit disinfected by the manufacturer’s agent after every use, the use of DeVilbiss suction machines cannot meet PIDAC standards.


  • After discarding the catheter, tubing, canister and filter, which are all single-use, the Laerdal machine must be disinfected between patients. Laerdal recommends cleaning the casing only with a mild detergent and water, but by IPAC standards all surfaces in care areas should be cleaned with health-care–approved disinfectants.
  • Because Laerdal’s instructions include applying fluid (water and detergent) to the surface of the casing, it is likely that applying disinfectants to the surface of the casing will not damage the internal workings of the machine.

Bulb Syringes

  • Bulb syringes designed to be disassembled, cleaned and sterilized (such as the Laerdal Penguin) can be considered if the practice has access to autoclaving or outsourced sterilization. Otherwise, single-use bulb syringes are the IPAC-compliant option.
  • It is safest to assume that bulb syringes are single-use only, unless the manufacturer’s instructions explicitly state that they can be autoclaved.