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A Beginner's Guide to Steam Sterilization

11/18/16 8:41 AM

Given the recent media scrutiny of hospital-acquired infections, outbreaks of foodborne illness and other tainted products, more and more business owners are turning to steam sterilization autoclaves to protect both their customers and their businesses.

An autoclave is a sterilizing chamber that uses hot steam to kill bacteria, fungal spores and viruses. Many people have never seen one because the devices primarily work behind the scenes, but the existence of autoclaves makes consumer safety in modern life possible.

Autoclaves come in a variety of sizes, shapes and styles, but they all work basically the same way: materials that need to be sterilized are placed within the sealed autoclave, air is removed from the system and replaced with steam, and then the load is exposed to the high temperature and pressure for a set amount of time. When the cycle is complete, sterilized materials can be removed and used safely.

If you’re a first-time autoclave shopper, download your free copy of the MadgeTech Autoclave Buyer’s Guide, a critical resource that will help you make an informed purchase. The Guide will have you asking important questions such as:

  • Do I need a tabletop or freestanding autoclave?
  • What size autoclave can my space accommodate?
  • Which door style is right for my application?
  • What plumbing or electrical needs do I have?
  • How will I verify that my autoclave is functioning correctly?


Autoclaves have the potential to save lives, protect profits and support innovation across a variety of industries:


Dental instruments are autoclaved to make sure that they stay sanitary no matter how many mouths they explore. Sterilizing tools keeps patients safe from acquiring disease or infections that other patients might be carrying, and also protects dentists from medical malpractice lawsuits.


Autoclaves are increasingly used in salons because their sterilization cycles are reliable and verifiable, and many salon owners say the visual of an autoclave in the shop is reassuring to customers. Estheticians autoclave metal tools such as scissors, nail clippers and other manicure related tools.

Body Modification Shops

For the more free-spirited and pain-tolerant, autoclaves are crucial to the maintenance of sanitary conditions in tattoo shops and body piercing studios. Stainless steel tools such as forceps and certain kinds of rubber tubing should be sterilized to prevent the spread of blood borne pathogens such as Hepatitis and HIV. Other equipment, like piercing or tattoo needles, are autoclaved and packaged at the time of manufacture.


Proper sterilization is fundamental to the practice of modern medicine. In hospitals, large-scale autoclaves are used to sterilize tools, linens, equipment and even biohazardous waste. These powerful machines, which look something like a cross between a refrigerator and a bank vault, are one of the main ways hospitals prevent the spread of infectious disease.

Laboratory Science

Scientific research is built on asking and answering very specific questions. To prevent extraneous or unwanted material, such as bacteria, from skewing their results, scientists often autoclave tools, testing supplies and scientific glassware to make sure their results are not influenced by unintended factors.


The heavy manufacturing industry has a variety of fascinating uses for autoclaves that go beyond sterilization. The high heat and pressure created in an autoclave are perfect for the vulcanization of rubber. Without autoclaves, the shipping and transportation industry would grind to a halt due to a lack of strong, durable truck tires. Autoclaves are also used to manufacture aerated concrete, a lightweight, highly-insulating building material, which has been a major tool in the rapid expansion of buildings and infrastructure in developing nations.

If you’re looking to purchase a steam sterilization solution for your workplace, be sure to download the new MadgeTech Autoclave Buyer’s Guide, a quick, helpful read that will help you assess your sterilization needs and prepare you to make an informed purchase. To stay up to date on industry news, be sure to follow MadgeTech on Twitter at @Madgetech.

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