Autoclaves and Sterilizers

Dental labs, tattoo parlors, beauty salons, spas, and other businesses depend on clean tools to ensure their clients' health. With different sizes, designs, and features, products used to create sterile tools vary greatly. Choosing an autoclave or sterilizer that suits your business' size without requiring time-consuming maintenance is essential.

How do you clean an autoclave or sterilizing machine?

Always follow manufacturer specifications. Although maintenance details differ from model to model, as well as between manufacturers, there are two universal tips you should know. First, be sure to turn the machine off prior to cleaning. Also avoid abrasive materials and cleansers.

How does an autoclave work?

Autoclaves use steam and heat to sterilize medical instruments and other equipment. A steam sterilizer machine transforms water into steam using high amounts of pressure and heat. While in use, the machine will reach temperatures up to 270 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature will be maintained for 20 minutes to destroy bacteria and other contaminants.

What types of autoclaves and sterilizers are there?

These hygienic machines come in different sizes and shapes. They also have carefully designed features that are meant for specific purposes.

  • Autoclaves: These machines use pressurized steam to kill bacteria and other impurities. They are often used on tools made of stainless steel and hard, non-porous plastic.
  • Dry heat sterilizers: Meant for metal instruments, these sterilizers take time to reach microbe-killing temperatures but do so with especially high heat.
  • Chemical vapor sterilizers: Chemicals are used in place of steam in these sterilizing machines, and their cleansing cycles are short and dry. In addition, this form of sterilization does not damage metal tools or equipment.
What are sterilization cycles?

Generally, there are two types of sterilization cycles:

  • Gravity: With this sterilization cycle, pressure builds within a sterilizer's chamber. As pressure increases, water turns to steam. The sterilizer's shape retains heat for long periods of time. During this time, microorganisms and contaminants die. This type of automatic cycle can be used in laboratory and medical settings, as well as in places that use a lot of glass or metal tools.
  • Vacuum: In this type of sterilizing process, air pressure is pulsed by sucking air from the chamber in timed rhythm. When steam and air are pulsed throughout the chamber, non-smooth materials can be sanitized. Though this type of automatic cycle can be found in a laboratory or medical setting, it is more often found in veterinarian offices, animal shelters, zoos, or other facilities that must sterilize porous materials.