Lister Spray : The First Cleanroom

Lister Surgery Theatre With Spray Device

Lister Surgery Theatre With Spray Device

Joseph Lister’s Antiseptic Spray was the first method ever used for attempting to creating a sterile environment. This sterile environment was for use in a surgical theatre, and followed on from Lister’s theories of creating a sterile environment to reduce the risk of gangrene in wounds. This attempt was the precursor to what would eventually become the modern day cleanroom environment.

Lister’s Spray consisted of a 5% carbolic acid solution. The solution was steam sprayed using the device pictured into the surgical theatre and onto the surgeons themselves. The spray was controversial at the time and it was suggested that the method might be toxic to the surgeons. The spray device boiled water with a spirit light in one compartment and the steam was fed into a chamber with the carbolic acid where it mixed and was expelled into the surgery as a yellow colored mist that had a sickly tar like smell.

The effectiveness of the spray for creating a clean environment was dubious and it was eventually discontinued by Lister himself. But this does not take away from the great contribution Lister gave to the creation of sterile environments. Concepts like wearing gloves, cleaning hands and sterilization are still used today.

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