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Autoclaves: How Do They Kill Microorganisms?

Published: 2021-06-16
Autoclaves: How Do They Kill Microorganisms?
Autoclaves: How Do They Kill Microorganisms?

Autoclaves are used in various facilities, especially in medical and laboratory settings. It sterilizes lab equipment and waste. You might be wondering, how does it do this? Also, what is its difference from other sterilization equipment? Read more below:

How Autoclaves Kill Microorganisms

The microorganisms are killed via steam sterilization. It uses heat to kill them, which is delivered by pressurized steam. The pressurization process allows the steam to reach high levels of temperature for efficient sterilization.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates their Guidelines for Disinfection and Sterilization of Healthcare Facilities that pressurized steam is the most widely used and reliable method of sterilization.

Due to the heat produced by the machine, it can cause the organisms’ structural proteins and enzymes to lose their shape to make them completely non-functional. This is also why the temperature for autoclave sterilization is at 121 degrees celsius, but a lot allow higher temperatures between 132 and 134 degrees celsius.

The time needed to sterilize a piece of equipment or tool in an autoclave machine will depend on what it’s made of, whether it’s wrapped, and the type of autoclave machine that is used. It’s possible to sterilize a lot of equipment and tools, but they will need a longer sterilization cycle to let the steam penetrate everything fully.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective and nontoxic way to kill microbes and spores quickly, steam sterilization through the autoclave process is the way to go. Moreover, autoclaves can quickly penetrate and heat fabrics, which makes them helpful in medical facilities and dental clinics.

To work effectively, the autoclave machine removes all air in and around the object that’s being sterilized. It forces steam to penetrate the surfaces through various methods:

  • Gravity displacement: This is also known as gravity autoclave, which injects steam into the chamber and then relies on that steam. The steam is heavier than air because it forces the air to leave the chamber through the drain vent at the bottom.
  • Pre-vacuum: This type of autoclave machine uses a vacuum pump to eliminate air from the chamber before steam enters it. Therefore, the steam penetrates even the porous objects immediately.

In a Nutshell

Autoclaves use high pressure and high-temperature steam to kill microorganisms. Steam autoclave requires materials to be saturated with steam, and it works by destroying the proteins of microorganisms. The process involves protein coagulation.

Think of the autoclaving process as a pressure cooker that uses steam under pressure. The increase in pressure above one atmosphere lets steam reach a higher temperature. With the extra pressure, it brings the boiling temperature of water higher. In turn, it makes it even more effective.

So, when it comes to maximum and effective steam sterilization, especially for medical and dental clinics, autoclaving is the way to go. In fact, it’s the most cost-effective and reliable form of sterilization today that you should get.

Now that you know how autoclave kills microorganisms, you can be more at peace when you enter facilities, especially clinics and hospitals that make you wonder how they keep their equipment and tools clean.

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