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What Is Autoclave Tape and How Is Autoclave Tape Used?

Published: 2020-07-29

What is autoclave tape and how is autoclave tape used?

What Is Autoclave Tape?

Autoclave tape is an adhesive tape used to determine if an item has gone through the sterilization process and illustrate to the processor that it has reached a specific temperature. The tape has a chemical indicator that will change color after exposure to temperatures commonly used in sterilization processes. In a steam sterilizer, this color will appear after 10 minutes at 121 degrees Celsius or two minutes at 134 degrees Celsius.

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How Is Autoclave Tape Used?

Autoclave tape works as a process indicator for steam sterilizers. It is most commonly used and well-suited in clinical and research environments. A person using autoclave tape will apply small strips to the item before placing it in the autoclave  — a machine that applies high-temperature steam to sterilize objects. Though the tape may resemble masking tape, its stronger adhesive allows it to adhere under the hot and moist conditions within the autoclave.

Autoclave tape's most notable characteristic is that it is an aggressive, pressure-sensitive adhesive designed for use with flexible sterile barrier systems, such as wraps and plain closure bags. It also adheres firmly to other materials like linen. By design, the adhesive attaches to many different wraps, substrates and surfaces to ensure the pack stays secure during the entire sterilization process.

Though autoclave tape may have changed color during the sterilization process, this does not necessarily mean that an item is fully sterile. The tape will change upon exposure to the desired temperature it is indicated for. However, for proper steam sterilization to occur, the entire item needs to reach and maintain a temperature of 121 degrees Celsius for 15 to 20 minutes to ensure the items' sterility.

Note that autoclave tape and the indicators do not prove that the sterilization process has killed organisms. Instead, they demonstrate that the autoclave has reached a temperature of 121 degrees Celsius. Environmental, Health and Safety recommends that you do not use autoclave tape as the only indicator of decontamination or sterilization.

When using autoclave tape, attach it to the exterior of the item you want to sterilize. Depending on the kind of autoclave tape you use, the tape will change to a specific color. Nev's Ink autoclave tape will change from white to black to indicate that the autoclave's interior temperature is high enough for sterilization. After the sterilization process, unused and correctly stored objects will remain sterilized for about 30 days.

Industries that use autoclave tape: healthcare, veterinary, and cannabis

Numerous industries use autoclave tape for various applications, including the following. 

  • Healthcare: In hospital and research labs, workers use autoclave tape to check that test tubes and other related objects have passed through the sterilization process. Further, medical offices can use autoclave tape to see whether medical instruments are sterile.
  • Veterinary: Like in medical settings for human patients, veterinary clinics use autoclave tape when testing items for animal care. Veterinarians require completely sterilized medical instruments to perform surgeries, conduct research and more. Using autoclave tape in a veterinary clinic is an effective way to track sterilized items.
  • Cannabis: In the cannabis industry, testing labs and tissue culture operations use autoclave tape when performing total yeast and mold count testing via autoclaves. This testing has proven to be an effective way to kill living organisms present in cannabis plants. By using autoclave tape, cannabis workers can ensure the autoclave is functioning at the appropriate temperature for sterilization.

Nev's Ink provides multiple sizes of autoclave tape that are appropriate for the above applications. 

How Does the Sterilization Process Work?

There are many kinds of autoclaves. Most commonly, labs use small eight-liter autoclave machines. These machines have cylinder chambers that can better withstand such extreme levels of pressure. But no matter the size of the autoclave, the sterilization process remains the same, which occurs as follows: 

  1. A worker places the items they need to sanitize inside of the autoclave.
  2. After the worker closes the door, the lid seals.
  3. All the air inside the autoclave gets removed.
  4. Steam pumped into the autoclave creates temperatures of at least 121 degrees Celsius. These temperatures usually can only go up to 140 degrees Celsius.
  5. Together, pressure and heat work to kill bacteria, fungi and other living microorganisms to sterilize the items, which takes 15 to 20 minutes.

At the end of the cycle, the items come out fully sterilized and ready for use.

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Nev's Ink — Autoclave Tape

Nev's Ink provides affordable autoclave tape in multiple sizes. All of our autoclave tapes are environmentally friendly, lead- and latex-free and well suited for healthcare and research environments. Click here to view all the autoclave tapes we offer. If you have a question or can't find what you are looking for, give us a call at 800-638-7465.


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