An autoclave is used in medical and laboratory settings to sterilize lab equipment and waste. Autoclave sterilization works by using heat to kill microorganisms such as bacteria and spores. The heat is delivered by pressurized steam. Pressurization allows the steam to reach the high temperatures that are required for sterilization.
According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Guidelines for Disinfection and Sterilization of Healthcare Facilities, pressurized steam is the most widely used and dependable method of sterilization. It’s nontoxic and inexpensive, it kills microbes and spores rapidly, and it quickly heats and penetrates fabrics.
Working Principle of Autoclave
Autoclave create such condition in its chamber to sterilize the material treated in it. It creates a temperature of 121℃ and pressure of 15 lb Hg within its chamber, it is run for a minimum of 15 mins to ensure the best results output of sterilization. The temperature of 121℃ and pressure of 15 lb Hg is sufficient to kill all bacteria and micro-organics, viruses, etc.
Is There A Limit To What Autoclaves Can Kill?
The short answer: no. Autoclaves are capable of killing all types of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and even spores, which are known to survive at high temperatures and can only be killed at temperatures around 130°C.
The advantage of autoclaves is that you can freely control the heat and pressure level in order to thoroughly sanitise an instrument and ensure that it is free of all harmful microorganisms, especially those that cannot be killed through ordinary methods.
This is why autoclaves are widely used especially in the medical field in lieu of, say, a microwave.They are able to evenly distribute high power energy to eliminate different types of contaminants.
Though there are some studies that are investigating if there are types of bacteria that cannot be autoclaved, so far there is no known pathogen (an infectious agent), that cannot be killed by an autoclave.
How Long Will Items Remain Sterile?
Though autoclaves can kill any type of microorganisms, maintenance is an important factor to remember.Maintenance will ensure that your freshly autoclaved instrument will not be contaminated again with harmful and infectious agents.
After you’ve autoclaved your instruments, it is important to make sure they are stored away and kept properly.
When packaging them, make sure the packaging does not have any structural defects such as holes, scratches, or openings, as this can make the instrument susceptible to contamination.
It is also important to be mindful of the expiry dates of packaging. Some packaging indicates when they must be replaced and how long their shelf life is.
Usually, they last for a year before they can be changed again.
Maintaining optimal storage conditions are important so that your freshly autoclaved instrument does not get contaminated again.
However, it is also important to be mindful of transportation conditions and frequency of handling.
Make sure that the environment of the instrument, once it is contained, does not jeopardise the sanitation of the instrument.
By taking care of instruments after they are autoclaved, you ensure that no harmful microorganisms can take over.
What is autoclave used for?
Autoclaves are different types depending on the use of the industry or institution, in small dentistry services or small hospital medical services Oven type small autoclaves or pressure cooker type autoclaves are used.
In large scale use of sterilization of materials, containers, glass bottles, or other things vertical autoclaves or Large automatic autoclaves are used.In Pharmaceutical Industry Horizontal Autoclave and Tray type autoclaves are used to sterilize powder for Injection and empty glass bottles for injectables dry powder filling in sterile glass bottles.