Sterilizer FAQ

Sterilizer Frequently Asked Questions

(For Questions Relating To Operational Problems, Please visit our Troubleshooting Guides Section)

  1. 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

  2. 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 capacity.

    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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    It is important to allow adequate warm-up time (normally, 5-10 minutes) before starting the timing of the cycle.

    There are 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).

  5. 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.

  6. 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 be replaced.

    A “hissing” sound coming from the sterilizer door may be an indication that the gasket is not sealing properly.

  7. 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 manual.

  8. 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 cleaning.

    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.

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