Regardless of the size or type of inventory you have, you have options when it comes to surgical instrument labeling techniques. If you need flexibility or variety to accommodate your inventory, you’ve got options. Here are a few available to you with their pros and cons highlighted to help you identify which might work best for your facility.


The electrochemical marking (ECM) method is acid-base marking that places a mark on stainless steel instruments using an electrical current, stencil, and electrolyte fluid. When applied, the mark doesn’t alter the surface of the instrument as engraving does but rather is applied below the instrument’s passivation layer.

Pro: Electrochemical marking creates a corrosion-free mark that doesn’t pose any threat to the integrity of your surgical instruments.

Con: The marks are subject to erosion over time and can sometimes be removed if an instrument needs to be buffed as a part of maintenance or repair.


With the laser marking method, a laser is used to heat the surface of an instrument, discoloring the metal to create a visible and traceable 2-D mark.

Pro: Laser making can be a quicker way to mark instruments with a traceable mark as compared to electrochemical marking.

Con: Marks are subject to erosion over time and can sometimes be removed if an instrument needs to be buffed as a part of maintenance or repair.

Please note that laser marking is not the same as laser etching or engraving. Those processes actually create grooves and impact the protective surface of an instrument, this method is discouraged. Not only does it compromise the integrity of your instruments, but it also creates areas for bacteria and debris to hide out and threaten patient safety.


Heat-fused nylon, also known as dipping, can be used to quickly identify sets by applying a thin layer of color through a powder-coating process to all instruments in a given set.

Pro: The dipping method can make set assembly easy and efficient for central sterile professionals.

Con: If used on smaller instruments, the layer of color can make the instrument difficult for surgeons to grasp. The color coating can also chip over time, requiring instruments to be refurbished and remarked before reusing.

TAPE OR DOTS (Mechanical)

Depending on your inventory, you may have instruments that aren’t suited for a laser or ECM mark. Tape or dots can come in handy in these situations and are safe for sterilization.

Pro: Tape and dots are a cheap and easy way to mark instruments that can’t be marked with other methods.

Con: The mark doesn’t last as long as marks applied by a laser or ECM.

Looking at the pros and cons of various surgical instrument labeling techniques, what do you think works best for your facility? Perhaps it’s a combination of a few. Here at Censis, we provide comprehensive instrument marking that includes electrochemical, laser, and mechanical marking. Plus, we handle the whole marking process, so you don’t have to worry about a disruption to your workflow. We’ve marked over 3.7 million instruments in more than 400 facilities nationwide, and we’d love for your facility to be next.

Interested in learning more? You can learn more about our solution or request information and our team will get in touch with you!


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