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A steam sterilizer is a big purchase, especially if you are just starting out with your business.  It can be easy to waste a lot of time and money by overlooking the requirements you have for an autoclave.

Each industry and office is going to have different demands.  The focus of this article is to guide you in lining up your needs with the right machine.  My advice is to assume nothing and write it all down to get a full picture.

Tuttnauer 3870EA AutoclaveThere may be only a couple of models that are perfect for you requirements, so I urge you to take this process seriously.  Autoclaves can be a “make or break” piece of machinery for a business that needs to decontaminate and/or sterilize items and they are expensive!

Plus, contaminated instruments are a huge danger to you, your co-workers, patients,and customers.  You need the right type of knowledge to keep everyone protected.

It must be large enough, fast enough, and have the correct features, otherwise you will be sending it back for something else.  You’ll be saying to yourself, “I should have listened to Autoclave Reviews!”  Anyway, let’s dive into:

Questions You Must Consider Before Purchasing Your Autoclave

1. What sizes are the items your business will be sterilizing?

A rule of thumb here is to look at your longest and widest instruments and gear you will be autoclaving.  Don’t forget pans, bowls, etc.  Measure them yourself.  Don’t take for granted that they are labelled a certain size.  Of course, your steam sterilizer will need to fit everything!

2. What type of instruments are you decontaminating and sterilizing?

For the most part, all autoclaves can process stainless steel instruments.  It is the specialty ones that you must keep in mind.  An example here is if you are buying for a dentist’s office, the autoclave needs to have a special rating for sterilizing the Midmark M3 Ultrafast Autoclavedental hand pieces.

Some instruments might be too delicate for vacuum, so they need a gravity cycle.  Sometimes your instruments won’t fit the cassettes or trays of a certain autoclave.  The chamber might, but the trays inside might not!

It is a lot to consider.  Read up on your “weirdo instruments”.  I have seen instruments worth tens of thousands ruined or damaged from ignorance of these details.  If you are in doubt, research it further.  After reading this, you have no excuse!

3. Will your instruments and gear be wrapped, unwrapped, or both?

In the operating room, most gear to be sterilized is wrapped in special material that allows the steam to penetrate, or in pouches.  You may need to do the same.  Some autoclaves have two different cycles, one for each.

As a broad statement, “you want to make sure the autoclave you buy has the selection of cycles that you need.”  This is in addition to question 2.  What cycles do you need: prevac, gravity, wrapped instruments, unwrapped instruments, a drying cycle?

4. What volume of autoclave cycles will you be running throughout the day?

Speed of autoclave cycles is another major detail to consider.  If you are at say, a busy surgical clinic, you will need to keep up with the tempo of the work day.

This is one of the more subtle aspects to study.  I would keep track of the gear you turn over for a few days, even weeks or months.  You need to get an average of cycles that you run.  Keep track of which days are busier than others.  Keeping in mind which cycles you need, those times wiil vary.  Cycles are: prevac (vacuum), gravity, and drying time.

Drying might be the biggest issue.  Some machines have a built in drying cycle.  Others need to have their door opened for a certain time so the load doesn’t become wet and contaminated.  You can easily fall behind in the turnover process during the day if your machine is too slow.

5. How much counter space do you have?

This is one of the easiest errors to avoid when looking to buy a sterilizer.  The dimensions are always clearly explained in product descriptions.  Don’t assume on this point.  Take careful measurements of your available space and don’t forget things that stick out like the cord or any water fill doors.

If you need to move things around to make space, do it and then measure before you make your purchase to be certain.

6. Are you able to monitor a manual autoclave?

There are computer automated autoclaves and manual, dial run ones.  The manual ones need a little more attention during and after the sterilization cycles.

If your office is too busy, or you are short handed, you may not be able to give a manual machine the needed supervision.  An automatic one is “set and forget”, though they are generally more expensive.

7. Do you need to sterilize fluids?

This mainly applies to laboratory autoclaves, though not always.  Liquid sterilization can be tricky and hazardous.  Usually, they require a gravity cycle.  If you are sterilizing large amounts, you may need an autoclave with a door on top, like a Tuttnauer 3870LV (lab, vertical).

8. Do you need to decontaminate hazardous waste?

Again, this is mainly for labs.  Look at the size of each load of waste you will be processing.  Do you want a separate autoclave for waste and one for instruments?

9. Will you need to print out your cycle information for documentation?

Automatic autoclaves are the types that can come with an optional printer.  Keeping this documentation can save your ass sometimes, in case of lawsuits from infection.

10. Are you willing to buy a used autoclave to save money?

This is a question that I cannot help you with much.  It is up to you.  Many autoclave vendors online will offer a one year warranty on refurbished models, so keep an eye out for that.  Steam sterilizers are built to be durable, but you won’t know the history of the ones you are considering.

That’s the bulk of questions you need to ask when looking to buy a counter top steam sterilizer.  I told you this was an in depth process!  You need to take a holistic approach when you look at your needs for sterilization.  All of these points need to be considered, plus circumstances that are specific to your business.

As a recap:

  • Write everything down in one place as you study your sterilizing demands.
  • Take this process seriously for safety, money, and hair pulling reasons.

It is a case of minimizing cost while covering ALL of the details about your steam sterilizer process.  Ask similar offices about their autoclaves, but keep in mind every single office is different.  Hope this helps!

Becoming a surgical tech is a one of a kind experience.  I did it in the US Navy as a Hospital Corpsman in 2002.  In the civilian world, the school is a trade school or an associates degree program.  You should have a high school diploma to apply.

It is not possible to become a surgical tech completely online.  School is meant to be hands on, lab, and OJT.

There are two parts below.  One is about school and the other is about you.  I want you to look honestly at yourself while reading it to see if this job is for you.  Make a truthful decision about whether you think the operating room is for you.  It is a self assessment type of thing.

This article has a harsh style because surgery is a harsh thing.  So, let’s learn about becoming a surgical tech.

A Brief Description of Surgical Tech School

Surgical Tech Hand SurgerySome of the shortest surgical tech schools are around 10 months, but are generally 12 to 18.  The associates degree usually takes two years like in any other fields.  Everything is compressed in military training, so we did it in six months.  It was intense!

A surgical technologist program is split between didactic (I think that word is still used) and clinic.  Mock operating rooms are set up in the schoolhouse or nearby to learn the flow of surgery.

The curriculum is heavy in anatomy and physiology, learning the names and uses of hundreds of surgical instruments, sterile technique, care of the patient, safety, and infectious diseases, to name the major subjects.

There are plenty of other topics to cram into your head, too.  It is vital to study hard, because you are going to be assisting with open wounds in people at their most vulnerable time.  You need to have a good base of knowledge.

Start your journey by searching “surgical tech schools (your area)”.  Look at the time it takes, pricing, any online reviews you can find, accreditation, and instructor reviews.  Once you’ve made up your mind to become a surgical tech, do your research for the best school experience.  You want to come out ready to confidently stand next to a surgeon, working on a gaping, bleeding wound.

Is Surgical Technology Right for YOU?

Part of the reason for this article is to help you “self select” yourself for surgical technology school.  I want you to avoid wasting your time and money on ST school only to have you hate it or be a liability to the OR.  I also don’t want a school to waste a position in class on you, either.

I’ve run into many workers that should never have been within two miles of an operating room and it sucks.  They hate life and spread it around.  Their negative attitude brings down the whole work environment.  Most importantly, they can be a hazard to the patient and the rest of the crew, especially if incompetence is added in there.

So, here are some truths about working in the OR.  I want you to look at yourself and be completely honest.  There is only a small percentage of people that are able to be effective in surgery.  I won’t sugar coat anything because patient and fellow worker safety is on the line all day, every day in a surgical setting.

Blood and Guts and Feces, OH MY!

For one, you MUST be able to handle gore.  This is obvious.  There is always a large amount of blood around.  You will have your hands and arms inside human bodies.  You will deal with small pieces of fat, muscle and bone flying around and landing on your gown.

You will be in close contact with urine, feces, pus, amniotic fluid, and saliva.  The biggest thing to consider is that YOU will be cleaning all of this stuff, sometimes after it sits around for a couple hours during surgery.

The smell can be overwhelming too.  You will be half way through school before you are allowed into an OR, so you may not know about your own tolerance until you’ve gone through your classroom and lab work.

If you are considering going to surgical tech school, I suggest some volunteer work.  Call around to your local hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, etc. and see if they accept volunteers.  Get in there and get dirty at least three or four times.  See how you handle it.  If you pass out or cannot take something about the environment, surgical technology is NOT for you!

You Need to be in Decent Physical Shape

Being an OR tech is a physically demanding job.  You are standing all day, doing the “quick walk” to get supplies, twisting back and forth, holding retractors in the body, and lifting heavy metal sets of instruments.

This is all done while wearing scrubs, a surgical gown, gloves, hair cover, mask, and sometimes lead x-ray gown underneath.  There is always a sense of urgency, so you need to be quick on your feet and agile.

The operating room is filled with heavy objects to move.  You will be pushing around massive beds and equipment, transferring patients, holding (sometimes massive) body parts, and cleaning like a mad person,  If you are unhealthy, surgical technology is NOT for you.

YOU Need a Mental Toughness that is Rare

Surgery is psychologically demanding on the crew, no two ways about it.  There are many issues to plague your mind in the OR.  You must be stable, mentally flexible, and resistant to many different mental traumas.

There is always an underlying level of stress in surgery.  It’s a very serious matter for the doctors to make someone unconscious, put a breathing tube in them, cut them open, repair something, and sew them back up.  You must maintain focus no matter what you are going through in your personal life.

Long hours and call are often demanded in a surgical setting, too.  You may do an eight hour shift, then have six hours of call.  You may do a 24 hour weekend call with little rest.  You must maintain top performance for your patients, though.

A big addition to the fatigue and stress is dealing with sick patients and death.  Cancer surgery is a big part of the operating room.  It can be very sad if the prognosis is not good.  In the case of trauma patients, they were healthy just an hour ago and may be now fighting for life.

Death and near death are part of the reality of the operating room.  Sometimes surgery can go very bad, but you must clean and turn over the room and move on to be effective for your next patient.  I call this “immediate resiliency”.

Another reality of surgery is verbal abuse.  When things are going poorly, the operating room crew can begin to turn on each other.  Surgeons have yelled, screamed, thrown things, had tantrums, etc. right at me.  This is rare, though, unless the surgeon is simply a basic shithead.

You need to develop diplomacy, improvisation, and a tough skin so you don’t bring the negativity home with you.  Of course, there are a host of other psychological hurdles, but those are the big ones.

I have talked about the negative aspects here because that is part of the reality to face before choosing surgical tech school.  To see the positive side, check out my: 5 Things I Loved about Being a Surgical Tech

Still Sound Interesting?  Go for it!!

So yeah, I over extended the topic of becoming a surgical tech, but I feel it is vital that you know the truth before you commit.  If you feel you are capable of handling this job, I say good luck to you and go for it!  Study hard.  You can start with some online anatomy right now!

The rewards of helping to heal and save lives is great.  Assisting with a C section is an amazing thing.  Knowing your are making a positive impact on your community will also give you a great sense of self worth and respect.  Plus, you will be working with the top medical personnel around.

Thanks for reading and do me a favor by sharing this article with someone you feel would be a good surgical tech. Have a good one.

Lost the manual for your autoclave?  I got you covered (hopefully) with this list of URLs where they are found.  If you can’t find one, leave a comment below this list and I’ll try to find it for you.

Midmark

Tuttnauer

Pelton and Crane

  • OCM
  • OCR
  • Delta Q8
  • Delta Q10
  • Magnaclave

Scican

The classic Statim 5000 and 2000 autoclaves have a new, upgraded series called the “G4”.  Scican emphasizes their focus on gentle sterilizing technologies and speed of sterilizing cycles.

Statim 2000 and 5000 G4

A similar cassette autoclave is the Midmark M3 Ultrafast, fyi… for comparison sakes.

The G4 series brings more electronic communication and new software to these machines.  Statims are chosen for their ability to sterilize a diverse type of instruments including dental hand pieces, eye surgery instruments, and other lumen (tubed) instruments.

This is the video I created to compare the 2000 and 5000, with their similarities, and differences.  You can do me a huge favor by liking, commenting, or sharing it around social media.

Here are the links that answer the most popular questions for the two:

Scican emphasizes that these new versions of cassette autoclaves  have stepped into the digital age with wi-fi, automatic cycle recording and monitoring of every cycle run.  The main benefit is no more manual logging of sterilization cycles, which sucks (and is not usually consistent) as we all know.

New Technical Features of the Statim G4 Models

This is a great video I found from the “Medical Device Depot” Youtube Channel that covers the advanced technology of the Statim G4 group of autoclaves:

New G4 Computerized Features

  • LCD touch screen controls
  • USB slot to download past data
  • 10/100 Base T Ethernet Connection
  • User specific pin number access to system
  • Communication with individual emails, can notify reps for service needs
  • Monitoring the data of the current sterilization cycle.
  • Logging cycle data automatically for the life of your sterilizer.
  • Manages maintenance electronically.
  • System updates are completely automated.

Sterilizing Features of the Statim 2000 and 5000 G4 Machines

In addition, the G4 sterilizers only use a specific amount of water per load.  It is not reused, but rather empties into the included waste bottle.  This can limit the possibility of contamination from recycled (or old) water, like most full reservoir autoclaves.  This feature also saves time by not having to heat an entire reservoir of water.  Only a small amount is heated by the internal steam generator.

Statim 5000 G4 AutoclaveScican’s Statim machines use a patented sterilization process called PPPD.  This stands for “Positive Pressure Pulse Displacement“.  Air removal in the chamber is done with injected saturated steam.  This “forced vacuum” is vital for instruments and packs to be fully sterilized, especially if they have lumens (are hollow).

Dental hand pieces and other instruments are autoclaved within removable stainless steel cassettes in the Statim 2000 and 5000.  This lets us take the gear aseptically to where it will be used and limits possible contamination.  The sterile instruments are opened at the point of use.

These autoclaves also employ a Scican patented “Dri-Tec drying technology“.  Wrapped instruments can be dried in 10 minutes.  The heat leftover from the steam cycle is injected back into the cassette.  There are also drying plates in the chamber which transfer heat to the instruments.  Full, wrapped loads can be dried in 15 minutes with this combination of radiant heat and convection technologies.

Differences Between the 2000 and 5000 G4 Autoclaves:

The difference between the 2000 G4 and 5000 G4 is in the sizes of the autoclaves and the cassettes.  The 5000 is larger and can run more instruments at once.  I thought it would be easiest to make this spreadsheet graphic that displays the differences:

This first image is about the time differences between the 2000 and 5000 cycles.

Statim 5000 and 2000 G4 Times

To conclude the review of these two cassette autoclaves, the computerized features of the new G4 models DOES bring the prices up.  If you need these new features, by all means research them further.

If you are looking for a straight forward sterilizing machine, a model like the Tuttnauer 1730 Value Clave could be found for a third of the price of the Statim G4 models.  So, be very honest to yourself about your office instrument needs and you could save some money.  Take care.

Tuttnauer 3870EA Autoclave

Automatic, push button.

Benchtop autoclaves are used by millions of different offices across the world for sterilization.  In general, they can be broken into two main categories: manual and automatic.

Many times, companies like Tuttnauer or Midmark will have one series of sterilizer that is in the automatic variety and one that is a manual model.  This post is going to cover the differences between automatic and manual autoclaves to help you in the buying process.

Different Ways the Autoclaves are Run

An automatic table top autoclave is one that is controlled and monitored with its internal computer.  They usually have pre-programmed cycles for different needs.  You just hit the button to choose the cycle, then the start button.  The computer automated aspect takes care of the vacuum air system, injecting the right steam, keeping the right pressure and the right temperature throughout the sterilization process.

Tuttnauer 2340M manual autoclave

Manually operated dials on the right.

On the other hand, manual autoclaves are controlled using dials on the front.  They are NOT computer automated.  It is up to the  user to turn the correct dials for cycle, time, temperature, etc.  Certainly, different steam sterilizers from different companies are run in different ways.  It is always vital to read through your specific user manual.

The computer automation in automatic autoclaves comes with a higher price tag usually.  Mainly, it’s from the more complex and expensive electronic parts.

This is the trade off for the precision of temperature and pressure regulation.  The higher price is also from the increase in speed and ease.  If you are looking to buy an autoclave, the automatic vs manual decision is a big one for sure.

Choosing Between a Manual and Automatic Autoclave

You can ask yourself some questions to nail down this choice better.  One is, “Can I (we) keep up with a manually run, dial turned sterilizer machine?”  “Can we keep our attention on it throughout the day?”

Another one for starting a business would be, “Can we afford to go for an automatic autoclave at the start of our business run?”

So, to close this article, please pay attention to all of the details among autoclaves.  Similar model numbers might have an automatic version AND a manual one.  I hope this helps you in choosing one.

There are a lot of other things to consider, too.  This is just one small aspect.  You need to ask yourself a lot more questions if you are in the buying process.  Check out my article: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying an Autoclave to get a full picture of the sterilizer purchasing process.

Leave a comment with more questions if you have them, about anything related to sterilization or autoclaves.  Thanks!

Different offices and settings require different sterilization capabilities.  The biggest one that pops in to my mind is in the laboratory autoclave category.  Labs do weird stuff!  Often they need to decon and sterilize liquids and hazardous wastes, for example.  This requires a specialized autoclave.

laboratory autoclave

A laboratory autoclave needs to sterilize different items compared to a medical or dental autoclave.  Because of these special needs, a lab autoclave usually looks different from a medical one, too.  But, I’ll get to that…

Labs work with a lot of liquids throughout the day.  For their experiments and tests sterile fluids are vital.  Any contamination can throw off numbers or completely waste the results.  That leads to a shit ton of wasted time!

A lab autoclave must be ready to sterilize liquids.  A special fluid cycle is usually needed on the machine.

Many laboratory settings produce a lot of bio-hazard waste as a by product of tests and experiments.  It can be expensive to pay a company to process bio waste.  It may be possible (and necessary) to use an autoclave to decontaminate this waste in house.  Please look up the laws and rules regarding this decontamination for your location, company, and industry.

Since liquids and hazardous wastes need to go into the sterilizer, lab autoclaves are often vertical.  The door opens at the top instead of the side, which is common for most benchtop autoclaves.  This gives clearance and width for large fluid containers or biohazard bags.

An example of a vertical lab autoclave for you to check out is the Tuttnauer 3870elv (covered here).  The “L” and “V” stand for lab and vertical.

As a last tip about lab autoclaves, make sure that you choose the correct size.  It must be large enough to handle all of your sterilization and decon needs.  But, you don’t want to waste your lab space and money on one that is too big.

OK, those are the main aspects that make up a laboratory autoclave.  I hope this helps you in the education and buying process.  Leave a comment with any more questions or experiences you’ve had.  I will keep expanding this guide based on your input.  Thanks for reading!

Tuttnauer 3870EA AutoclaveI have seen SO MUCH confusion about how autoclaves work, I hope to boil it down in this article.  It is simple: pressure, heat in the steam, and time are used to kill all the microbes in the chamber.

I’m  going to call autoclaves “steam sterilizers” through this article, too… a heads up on that.

The fundamentals of how an autoclave works are simple.  There are microorganisms on the stuff that we want to sterilize.  This microscopic shit isn’t safe on things like surgical instruments, dental instruments, tattoo needles, etc.  It carries disease and infectious bugs!

First, there is the cleaning and decontaminating of the dirty instruments, or whatever you are using.  Then, it is washed, dried, and wrapped, depending on the size and contents.

The newly decontaminated gear is loaded into the chamber of the autoclave.  There must be room for the steam to get around everything in the chamber during the sterilization process.

The Similarities of Most Autoclaves

Most autoclaves are built around the chamber that can withstand high temperature and pressure.  These forces must be caged to prevent a catastrophic explosion in an extreme case.  But for the most part, the chamber is where your items are loaded and is what fills up with steam.

A vacuum is created by a machine pump right before the sterilization cycle begins, in most up to date autoclaves.  This allows the steam to forcefully penetrate all surface areas in the chamber.

Most sterilizer machines have electronic gauges and automatic shutoffs built into them.  It makes them very safe and precise in their control of pressure and temperature.  There are very strict standards about the times, pressures, and temperatures that are acceptable for sterilization.  Be sure to research the ones that apply to where you live.

After the sterilization cycle, some automatic autoclaves have a drying cycle.  This speeds up the total time that it takes to process that sterile load.  Others don’t and you need to crack the door for a bit on some benchtop steam sterilizers.

So, I kind of rambled and don’t know if I answered “how autoclaves work”.  In a nut shell:

  1. Autoclave is cleaned and turned on, water added to proper level, test run done if needed.  In general: the electric autoclave heats water to make steam and sterilize items in its chamber.  This chamber is the main working area of the autoclave.  Pressure, time, and temperature NEED to be monitored.
  2. Items to be sterilized are disinfected, dried, packaged, given an indicator, and labeled with the needed info.
  3. Autoclave is loaded with prepared gear, giving room for the steam to penetrate all areas of the chamber.  Door is securely shut.  Correct cycle is chosen and run.
  4. The sensors and gauges do their work.  The pump may have made a vacuum in the autoclave chamber before injecting the steam.  Anyway, the steam is injected.  The temperature is the main way that pressure is controlled, either by the machine in an automatic autoclave, or by a person in a manual sterilizer.
  5. After sterilization cycle, either there is a drying cycle, or the door of the autoclave must be cracked to allow for drying.  Wetness contaminates any newly sterile gear, so please keep that in mind!

The combo of pressure, temperature, and time is agreed to be the best way of killing microorganisms.  The test to see if the “autoclaving succeeded” is called a biological test.

It’s a “tough to kill” fungus strain that you run in the morning.  Then, you put it in an incubator device.  If the strain grows, an alarm goes off, saying that a sterilizer may need more tests and a closer look.

Since it is tough to kill, the assumption is that the other microorganisms are dead, too.  It’s strange to think that we depend so much on assumptions, even today.

Okay, that’s my broad overview of how an autoclave works.  I still feel like some of you may not be satisfied with this answer, so leave a comment to speak your mind and I will make this article better, and/or create some videos about the way(s) that steam sterilizers exist to protect all of us from diseases and infections.

It’s all about safety and effectiveness here at AutoclaveReviews.com!  Have a good one, focus on the positive.  Leave those comments… I feel a video series being born!

Table top autoclaves have been the main focus of Autoclave Reviews since I started it a couple of years ago.  These types of sterilizers are used by millions every day. Whether you know it or not, you have been protected by a benchtop autoclave multiple times in your life.  It could have been at the dentist, hospital, tattoo artist, or any number of offices that use them.

Steam sterilizers are important!  Contaminated items are a monumental hazard, especially in surgery  I want to protect you, your co-workers, clients, and patients through education.  So, who am I to talk about autoclaves?

I’m Jared Broker.  I was a Navy Hospital Corpsman with a surgical tech specialization for eight years from ’01-’09.  That means I’ve used and cursed many autoclaves!  I want to share my experiences and research with you to help fight possible infections and spreading of diseases.  Let’s start going over the different types of machines together.

An Overview of Table Top Autoclaves for Sterilization

Midmark M11 Chamber

A typical chamber for a table top model. This one is Midmark M11.

This article is going to define and breakdown the topic of table top sterilizers.

If you have ever had surgery, ANY dental procedure, a tattoo, or piercing, you have been protected by an autoclave.  This goes for your pets at the veterinarian, too!

OK, Let’s Define an Autoclave.

An autoclave (also called a steam sterilizer) is a strong, heated container that can operate under pressure to sterilize instruments and gear with steam.  I’ll add that they are a device or machine.  Most of the electronic sterilizers use a vacuum, or air pressure control mechanism.  The temperature is the main driver of the pressure level.

In most autoclaves, a vacuum is created in the chamber first.  Then steam is injected.  This is to make sure the steam penetrates all surfaces of the instruments and items inside.

Some machines inject only a small amount of steam per cycle at a time.  Others use a larger water reservoir that needs to be completely heated.

The Different Types of Table Top Sterilizers

One focus of AutoclaveReviews.com is to help you find the right decontamination and/or sterilization machine for your surgical needs, dental office, lab, tattoo shop, or any other reason you may need one.  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 the main link in breaking the infection and disease transmission chain after decontamination is accomplished.  The right steam sterilizer with the proper education and usage will enhance safety for you, your co-workers, and your patients or clients.  I cannot stress how important it is to find the right one.

Learning about various autoclaves, their functions, and features will save you time and money when buying.  I don’t want you to blindly buy a sterilizer only to have it show up and be too small or not have your needed functions.

I am focusing on table top autoclaves for now.  So, here is a broad breakdown of table top machines into their different categories and functions.  I break down bench top ‘claves into the categories of stove top, cassette, manual, and automatic.

Cassette Fed, High Tech Autoclaves

Statim 5000 G4 AutoclaveThese are the smallest, yet generally most sophisticated 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, though.

Autoclave cassettes are stainless steel trays between 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 instead of needing to heat a large water reservoir.

These machines 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 “Pressure Cooker” Types

OLizee Portable AutoclaveThese 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 here: Orion Motor Tech and OLizee.  They have electric thermal heaters at the bottom to speed up the process.

They are great for decontamination of instruments.  I’ve seen people use them for nail salons, dog grooming, mushroom growing operations, and other places.  I caution people to not use them for more important sterilization uses, as they are very low tech.  Dentists, surgical clinics, tattoo parlors, and labs should really be using an autoclave machine, in my opinion.

These “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…

Manually Operated Steam Sterilizer Machines

Tuttnauer and Midmark are the leaders in bench top autoclaves.  Often, there are models that are similar, except one will ve automatic and one is manual.  Table 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.

Tuttnauer 2540M AutoclaveManual 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 and Computer Operated

Tuttnauer EZ10 Automatic Autoclave

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.