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How to Clean TENS Unit Pads the Right Way

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How To Clean TENS Unit Pads

Getting yourself a high-quality TENS unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is a great way to help you manage pain without drugs. The unit produces a low voltage electrical current that goes through a set of electrode pads that you attach to your skin. The placement of the pads depends on the treatment need. 

The quality of the electrode pads play a very important role in functioning of a TENS unit. If they do not work properly, your TENS unit won’t provide any benefits. 

Proper care of your TENS unit will increase its longevity. One of the most important things to do is to clean the TENS unit pads. Although you should also clean the rest of the unit, we are focusing on cleaning the unit pads here as they are the easiest to get dirty. That’s due to their stickiness. They are simply magnets for dust and dirt. 

In this article, we’ll look at How To Clean TENS Unit Pads as effectively as possible.


Why Should You Clean Your TENS Pads?

TENS Unit Pads

Cleaning the pads on your TENS unit is essential to keep it working and to prolong its life. Although the reusable pads like the ones shown above won’t last forever and would need to be eventually replaced, you still want to get the most out of them before you toss them. It can get pricey if you replace the TENS unit pads every time you use your TENS device!

Apart from saving you some money by not buying so many new TENS unit pads, the pads should also be regularly cleaned to make sure that they work properly. When your TENS unit pads are full of dirt and oil, they are less sticky and more likely to fall off. Instead of taping them in place or replacing them with new ones, you can try to clean them first. 

Lastly, do you really want a dirty unit pad sticking on your skin? If multiple people use them at home, wouldn’t you want it cleaned first before using it? Even if you’d only stick it to your skin, you should still keep proper hygiene in mind. Plus you wouldn’t want to spread anything contagious to other family members by simply using the TENS device.


How To Clean The TENS Unit Pads

TENS Unit By TENS 7000

Now that we know how important it is to clean the TENS unit pads, it’s time for you to get to know the different steps on how to do that: 

Clean Your Skin Before Each Use

The best way to prevent your TENS unit pads from accumulating dirt and oils is slow the accumulation before you even put the pads on. Thoroughly clean your skin where you’ll be sticking those pads! Use soap and water to remove dirt and excess oils on the surface of your skin.

By doing that, you lessen the amount of dirt and oils that could stick to the pads.

Additionally, skip using lotions, oils, powders, or any product on the skin where you plan to stick the pads. These will just stick to the pads and make them gunky. Some manufacturers also suggest hitting the area with an alcohol pad or wipe to make sure that the area is fully cleaned.

Before you stick the pads on, be sure your skin is completely dry. 

Some companies may also suggest trimming excess hair. This will help the pads to adhere properly to the skin. However, you shouldn’t shave the hair off right before the session. Shaving can cause irritation to the skin. You should never apply the electrodes on broken or irritated skin. 

Wipe Off the Pad With A Moist Wash Cloth

It is very easy to clean TENS unit pads — all you need is water. If you see any dirt or debris sticking on it, you can wet your hands and remove it manually. You can also use a moistened washcloth to wipe off the unit pads. 

The pads are moisture-sensitive so you shouldn’t use a dry washcloth. The dirt won’t stick to it and it could also dry up the pad. Also, make sure that you use a washcloth, (preferably a lint-free Microfiber one) and not paper towels. Paper towels have loose fibers that can stick to TENS pads. 

TENS Pad Wipes

You can also buy TENS Pad Wipes like those shown above that are specifically made for TENS pads. These are just like other moistened wipes. They are great because they already have a cleaner that safe for your TENS pads. Also, the fibers won’t stick to your electrode pads when you use them. You may also use them on your skin before attaching the pads. 

That said, if you already have other wipes in your house, there’s no need to get these.

Store The Pads Properly

Lastly, the TENS pads should be stored properly to avoid getting them dirty. They usually come with their own containers. Don’t make the mistake of throwing them away! However, before you stick them back in storage, make sure you clean them first. There are also some commercially available TENS pad holders like these shown below. 

TENS Pad Holders

When storing your TENS and EMS Pads, it is usually recommended to store them at room temperature. Some brands may suggest placing them in the refrigerator, but that is only meant to cool them down after use. The refrigerator should be frost-free and the pads should be placed sticky-side up.

Once cooled, you should store them at room temperature. Avoid heating them up to prevent them from easily drying out. 

If you misplaced the storage liners, you can replace them with clean wax paper. This will prevent the TENS pads from sticking to each other and from getting dirtier. Some would also store the TENS pads in zip lock bags to keep dirt away.  


How Often Should You Clean TENS EMS Pads?

TENS Unit By NueMedics

It is best to clean the pads every after use. You want to make sure that the dirt is removed before they are stored. Doing this can lengthen the life of the TENS unit pads. Over time, they will start to lose their adhesion. See our article on how to make your TENS pads sticky again when that happens.

Eventually, you will need to replace them if you can’t get them sticky anymore.. 

When To Replace Your Pads?

As we’ve said, TENS unit pads aren’t designed to last forever. You’ll have to replace them eventually to make sure that you also receive the proper TENS treatment. Most manufacturers suggest replacing them after about 30 uses or in 1-3 months’ time, depending on use. 

However, there are instances when you need to replace the electrode pads sooner. The frequency of needing replacement pads will depend on how you use them, how you store them, and what pads you buy. Here are some of the most common signs that you need a replacement:

Pads don’t stick

The most common reason why you should replace the pads even if you haven’t used them a lot is that they won’t stick anymore. If this is the case, you can try following our guide to making TENS Pads sticky again.

Although some suggest taping the pads into place, some don’t find this comfortable at all. This is because the tension is different. 

Pads are Dried Up

Dried up pads are also very likely to lose their adhesiveness. You might also notice that the sides are the first to dry up. As TENS units emit a low voltage, the heat will eventually dry the pads due to use.

Some manufacturers say that it’s okay to try to rehydrate the pads. This is done by putting a drop of water on the pads and letting them absorb it. Never submerge the electrode pads or they’ll also be oversaturated. 

Additionally, if you don’t properly store the pads, they’d also dry up faster. Remember to put them back in their container or in a sealed bag to help prevent moisture loss. Also, avoid storing them in high or very low temperatures. 

Poor conductivity

This is a sign that you should buy replacements. If you still want to try and save your TENS unit pads and are experiencing this problem, you can try to buy electrode gel.

Electrode Gel

The gel is applied to the pads to help with the conductivity. However, this is just a temporary solution and you’d eventually need to get new pads.

Damaged wiring

When removing the pads from your skin, it can be tempting to pull them off by grabbing the wires like some determined character getting out an ICU bed in a movie.

That could be a costly mistake as it can damage your pads.

When that happens, there is nothing left to do but to replace them with a new one. Avoid this kind of problem by pulling off the gel pads itself rather than the wires. 

Burning sensation or change in the stimulation

When you observe any change in how it feels or the effectiveness of the device, it might be time to change your pads. Your TENS unit device might still be properly functioning, and the pads are just the ones preventing you from getting the relief that you used to have while using the unit. 

Looks like it’s time to get new pads for your TENS Unit!