Thanks for checking out Autoclave Reviews. It contains specific details about different sterilizers. I also write about the sterilization process and Surgical Technology in general.
My name is Jared. I was a Navy Hospital Corpsman with a Surgical Tech specialization for eight years. I’ve used and cursed many autoclaves in my time! Mainly, I want this site to promote safe, sterile instruments through education about steam sterilizers, specifically table top sterilizers.
I’ll start off with a quick overview of autoclave machines.
First Off, What is an Autoclave Sterilizer?
An autoclave (sometimes called a steam sterilizer) is a device or machine that kills microscopic contamination using steam. They are more effective when a vacuum exists. Most of the electronic sterilizers use a vacuum, air pressure control mechanism.
The air pressure is brought to vacuum before the cycle in some cases. Then, steam is injected. Some machines inject only a small amount of steam per cycle. Others use a larger water reservoir that needs to be completely heated.
Breaking Down the Different Autoclave Categories
The focus of AutoclaveReviews.com is to help you find the right sterilizer for your practice, business, lab, or whatever reason you may need one, decontamination included. Education about the different types and functions is the first step in the buying process.
I hope to provide this education primarily to promote safety in terms of reducing instrument contamination. Autoclaves are a vital link in breaking the infection and disease transmission chain. The right steam sterilizer with the proper education and usage will enhance safety for you, your coworkers, and your patients or clients.
Learning about various sterilizers and their details will save you time and money when buying, too. You don’t want to recklessly buy a sterilizer only to have it show up and be too small or not have your needed functions.
I mainly focus on table top autoclaves for this site. So, here is a broad breakdown of table top sterilizers into their different categories and aspects. First, bench top autoclaves can be broken down into the categories of cassette, stove top, automatic machines, and manual machines.
Cassette Steam Sterilizers
These are the smallest autoclave machines for professional use. They are very fast in their sterilization cycles, compact, and automated. Statim has dominated this niche market for decades and they continue to update their machines. Midmark’s M3 is giving it a run for their money, as they often do.
Autoclave cassettes are slide out trays with stainless steel trays between the high grade plastic. You can take out and move instruments aseptically to the point of use to prevent contamination. They often save on water by using only a small injection that creates steam with a generator.
Cassette sterilizers are often rated for dental hand pieces, so they are sometimes called dental autoclaves, though they are used across many industries and professions.
Stove Top Autoclaves
These types of sterilizers look and act very much like pressure cookers. They are stainless steel, have screw down lids, and a temperature pressure gauge. I reviewed two brands together by Orion Motor Tech and OLizee. They have electric thermal heaters to speed up the process.
They are great for decontamination of instruments. I’ve seen people use them for nail salons, dog groomers, mushroom growing operations, and other places. I caution people to not use them for more important sterilization uses, though it is up to you. Dentists, surgical clinics, tattoo parlors, and labs should really be using an autoclave machine, in my opinion.
Stove top “pots” are difficult to monitor precisely. A certain temperature and pressure for a specific time is needed to truly sterilize instruments for invasive (skin puncturing) human use.
This brings me to the…
Manual Sterilizer Machines
Tuttnauer and Midmark seem to be the leaders in sterilizing machines. Often, there are models that are similar, except that one is automatic and one is manual. Bench top autoclaves are generally box shape with a cylinder chamber inside made of polished stainless steel.
They are electric run and have water reservoirs to produce steam in the chamber.
Manual means that it is run by dials on the front. It is up to you to monitor the cycle and set the dials correctly. You often need to dry the gear after a sterilization cycle by opening the door yourself and venting it.
These can be difficult in an office that is very busy. They need more attention during cycles than the automatic autoclaves, though not much more. Their prices can be much lower than their automated cousins.
Manual autoclaves are great for nearly every practice. We had them in our operating rooms for quick sterilization. Dentists offices, tattoo shops, surgical clinics, labs, and other locations use them extensively.
Automatic Table Top Sterilizers
Automated autoclaves are computer run. They have digital displays and preset cycles with their specific parameters. Often the loaded cycles are unwrapped, wrapped, and drying cycles.
You are usually able to enter in custom cycles in case you have a specific purpose. Again, Midmark and Tuttnauer are the leaders in this field. They come in a range of sizes for different needs.
They also have a variety of different features and special additions such as a paper printer for every cycle to be recorded. Each company has a different mechanism for creating steam and pressurizing it.
Within the automatic autoclave category there are a host of different types, such as:
- Cassette: These cross over with automatic because they ARE automated. They are just small and use the slide out cassettes.
- Regular Table Top: box looking, horizontal door.
- Lab/ Vertical: Door at the top, usually can process liquids, glass, and decontaminate hazardous waste.
- High Speed: Some autoclaves come in a version that heats up faster than the original. They are great for high volume turnover, but require a higher voltage, so this is something to research.
There are also a host of features across all machines to keep in mind when looking to buy a sterilizer. Some include:
- Automatic door opening at end of the cycle
- Automatic shutoff at end of cycle (usually for automated machines)
- Steam injection generators to save water.
- LCD control display
- Preset sterilization cycles (automatic autoclaves)
- Active, closed door drying at end of cycle.
- Thermostat and monitoring of temperature and pressure during cycle.
That’s my broad overview of table top autoclaves. I hope I broke them down into categories and features that make sense. It can be quite a process to find the right one for your business. I write this often, but you can save yourself a ton of time and money by doing your sterilizer homework thoroughly.