An autoclave is one of the essential equipment used to purify and sterilize apparatus and equipment. It uses vapor and steam to purify things. Autoclaves are also standard in hospitals and medical labs etc. Charles Chamberland invented this useful machine in 1879. He knew that steam could effectively sterilize equipment without altering their quality.
The working principle is quite simple for an autoclave. It uses high pressurized steam to kill bacteria and viruses and other harmful items like fungi or molds. An autoclave is efficient for eliminating anything that is insoluble in water.
Autoclave uses 97% gas and 3% water to produce steam. An autoclave has an enclosed chamber where the sterilization is performed.
The high-pressure steam enters the enclosed chamber with a pipeline. The chamber has a rack to keep items inside or sterilization. The saturated steam passes through these contaminated items and cleans the harmful microbes. Since it is saturated steam, it does not become contaminated.
Different types of autoclave
Yes, there are different types of autoclaves. In general, the models are differentiated according to their sterilization method. The two types of autoclave are-
- Vacuum autoclave
Vacuumautoclaves are beneficial in cases where air and air pressure are unable to sterilize any equipment. The steam enters inside the vacuum chamber of the autoclave. It ensures the proper sterilization of items without any problem. Vacuum autoclaves are best for sterilizing porous equipment. For example,
- Tissue culture equipment
- High-density polyethylene products like syringes
- Covered and packed items with air
- Animal cages
- Gravity Autoclave
It can be used to sterilize the standard equipment like glassware, steel utensils, bio-hazardous wastes. The steam is pumped into the chamber, and the air force is applied to purify the contents. These autoclaves are ideal for storing items which have a hard surface-
- Metal equipment like utensils used in lab experiments and glass surgical items
- Borosilicate glass equipment
- Covered products and products used in experiments
How to choose the best autoclaves?
There are different types of autoclaves, and each of them is used in various sectors. Autoclaves are chosen based on the-
- Which things need to be sterilized is the main criteria. If the sterilizing media is hard and non-porous, then gravity autoclave is best. For porous items, vacuum autoclaves work better.
- The available area. The area open in the laboratory needs to be considered before getting an autoclave. For smaller spaces, tabletop autoclaves work better. For larger space, large autoclaves can be used.
Autoclaves are available in the market in different sizes and shapes and can be used as per requirement.
The autoclave needs proper maintenance to make sure it is working with efficiency. Additionally, maintenance also increases its life, and the machine remains valid for a long time. Here us a small guide about how to maintain an autoclave to ensure it remains in good condition-
- Check the water condition
The most crucial element in the autoclave is water steam. Hence, if the stream quality is not ideal, it may not offer proper sterilization. So, you need to continually monitor the water quality that is used to produce steam. In general, tap water is not ideal for producing steam because of its higher mineral content. On the other hand, deionized water or Di-water mixed with a small amount of tap water is the best option to produce ideal steam for the autoclave.
- Clean the machine
The next thing you need to do is to clean the machine regularly. Routine cleaning can often prevent any type of harmful bacteria or fungi or viruses from invading the autoclave chamber. Dirty water can also damage the autoclave chamber as it remains inside the chamber and can burn the heater. Hence, make sure to clean the autoclave with a soft cloth to ensure there is nothing left. If there is any residue, take your time and clean the residues properly.
Before cleaning the machine, drain the autoclave pipe and the chamber ultimately to ensure a full-proof cleaning,
- Change the gasket
The gasket is used to seal the autoclave door entirely so that nothing can enter inside during the sterilization procedure. The gasket is exposed to high pressure and temperature. Hence, it becomes brittle and less effective with time. Therefore, make sure to replace the old gasket with a new one to get the best sterilization. In general, a gasket lasts for a maximum of three years. If your autoclave is under operation regularly, you may need to replace it once in a year.
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