Sterilizer Frequently Asked Questions
(For Questions Relating To Operational Problems, Please visit our Troubleshooting Guides Section)
- How often should I test my sterilizer?
At Least Once Per Week
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) vol. 42/No. RR-9 calls for once a week.
Proper functioning of sterilization cycles should be verified by the periodic use of spore tests (at least weekly).
Heat sensitive chemical indicators (those that change color after exposure to heat)are used to identify packs that
have been processed through the heating cycle and do not ensure the
adequacy of a sterilization cycle.
Spore Testing is the only way to know for sure
- Is load capacity a concern?
This is the most common cause for spore test failure
The quantity of instruments placed within the sterilizer chamber should never exceed the manufacturer’s recommended
Tabletop sterilizers, which are most frequently used in individual and group practices, have a relatively
small chamber and are easy to overload.
Instruments, bagged or otherwise, should not be loaded in such a manner as
to inhibit the free flow of steam around them.
- What happens if my sterilzation cycle is interrupted?
Sterilization Is Not Complete
Interruptions of the sterilization cycle most frequently occur during a momentary power serge or failure.
Effective sterilization in steam sterilizers is a specific function of time, temperature and pressure (saturated steam).
If any of these parameters is compromised, sterilization failure is likely.
- What is the proper time cycle?
20 Minutes - After Operating Temperature & Pressure Has Been Reached
For most steam sterilizers running at 250 degrees Fahrenheit (121 degrees Celsius), a 20-minute cycle is adequate.
That 20-minute cycle should begin at the time the sterilizer reaches operating temperature and pressure.
important to allow adequate warm-up time (normally, 5-10 minutes) before starting the timing of the cycle.
some steam sterilizers (ie: Scican Statim), commonly referred to as “rapid-cycle” or “flash” sterilizers, which may have a shorter cycle
time (3.5 to 8 minute cycle).
- What temperature do most sterilizers operate at?
250-270 Degress F
Most steam sterilizers operate in a range between 250-270 degrees Fahrenheit. Any lower temperature may be inadequate
to achieve sterilization.
- Is low pressure a concern?
Pressure should be 15-30 psi (pounds per square inch). A frequent reason for loss of pressure is an inadequate seal
of the sterilizer door gasket.
The gasket may need to be cleaned with common dish washing detergent or it may need to
A “hissing” sound coming from the sterilizer door may be an indication that the gasket is not sealing
- Is my machine venting properly?
Venting is the process, which during the warm-up time, prior to the actual sterilization cycle, cool air is displaced
with the sterilizer chamber by pressurized saturated steam.
This process is achieved via a valve commonly referred to
as a “bleeder valve”. If this valve is not cleaned regularly, sterilizer failure can occur.
While the sterilizer
temperature gauge may indicate that adequate sterilization temperature has been reached, there could be “cool” spots
within the sterilizer chamber.
The procedure for cleaning this valve should be described in the sterilizer owner’s
- Is tap-water okay for my sterilizer?
Only distilled or de-ionized water should be used in autoclaves for purposes of sterilization and maintenance related
Water, other than distilled water, may be too corrosive or cause a build up of mineral deposits that can
impair the function of the sterilizer.