How to Unclog a Syringe

Large syringes are often used to orally medicate animals.
Large syringes are often used to orally medicate animals. (Image: Ralf Nau/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Syringes are used in a variety of ways for both human and animal health care. Many of the larger 60cc syringes are used to give food laced with medicine to children or animals. This can cause stubborn clogs in the syringe that are hard to remove. Syringes that have contained food are prone to accumulating bacteria so should always be cleaned and disinfected thoroughly. To keep clogs from occurring, always wash the syringe out with hot water immediately after using.

Things You'll Need

  • Toothpick or needle
  • Paper towels
  • Small bowl
  • Small baby bottle scrubber or old toothbrush

Remove the needle from the syringe -- if one is attached -- and dispose of it properly in a sharps or hazardous waste receptacle.

Remove the plunger from the syringe, so that you have two separate parts.

Soak the syringe cylinder and the plunger in a sink full of hot soapy water for approximately 30 minutes.

Put the plunger back into the syringe and pull backward to fill the syringe with hot soapy water. Push down on the plunger to force the hot soapy water back out of the syringe.

Insert a toothpick, or small needle for small syringes, into the needle end of the syringe to unclog stubborn blockages.

Scrub the inside of the syringe with a small baby bottle scrubber or toothbrush, to get deposits off the sides of the syringe, such as dried food.

Rinse both pieces of the syringe thoroughly with hot water.

Tip the syringe sideways in a bowl lined with paper towels. This will allow the water to drain completely from the tip of the syringe.

Allow both pieces of the syringe to air dry completely.

Reinsert the plunger into the syringe and store it in a clean dry space.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always reinsert the plunger once the pieces are dry; otherwise oxidation on the rubber tip of the plunger will cause the plunger to not fit back into the syringe.
  • Never use a dirty syringe to give medications or food.
  • Syringes that are not properly air dried can accumulate bacteria.

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