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What Does “Autoclavable” Mean? Is Your Item Safe to Autoclave?

An item is autoclavable when it can handle the temperature, pressure, and steam within an autoclave.  There are a lot of materials made specially for this purpose.  Mainly these are instruments made of metal or special plastics.

I can think of some items and materials to question before throwing in the autoclave.  Plastic and rubber items need to be researched for sure.  You can search for images about “melted in an autoclave” for a fun lesson.

Certain glasses cannot handle the autoclave environment, either.  These are the most dangerous materials, of course.  Hot, broken glass is a nightmare scenario.

Optical devices such as scopes are usually too delicate for steam sterilization.  (Some new models can be autoclaved, though.)  The pressure changes can damage the sensitive lenses and put them out for repairs.  Usually, scopes and cameras used in surgery are sterilized with a different method like Sterrad plasma.

Research Your Items for Autoclave Safety

It’s vital to learn if your item is autoclavable.  Some will have it printed right on the surface.  “Do not autoclave” might be seen.  “Autoclavable” might be seen, too!  If you can’t find a stamp, you will have to research it.  Break out any user manual or paperwork, or look for it online.

No luck?  Contact the manufacturer or research it online.  Forums are a good place to ask.  A good motto for this is, “better safe than sorry”.  Do your full research and don’t end up with broken items or a molten pool in your autoclave.

The pressure and temperature around these sterilizers is nothing to take lightly.  The main goal of this site is to advocate safety.  This is one of those times.  Please be certain you are using “autoclavable” items with your autoclave.

There is also a big money reason for this research.  I don’t wish for you to be cleaning out melted items from your sterilizer or ordering a new machine.  Please stay safe and do your homework!