Indicator tape is a vital part of the sterilization process. It is one of the many controls in place to make sure that all microorganisms are being effectively killed.
Autoclave tape changes color ONLY when exposed to a certain temperature, usually 121 degrees Celcius. There are usually stripes that change to a dark color along the roll. It is an adhesive used to wrap sets of instruments or packages that are going to be sterilized and can withstand the pressure and temperature without being destroyed..
We also affix them to sterilization pouches as a stand alone indicator of the correct temperature being reached. Some pouches come with the tear off ones that you throw inside. These temperature indicators must be used in conjunction with biological indicator (spore) tests.
As a side note, I’m starting to see cracks in this logic as new super viruses and super bugs pop up. Hopefully, we don’t see “super fungus” strains that skirt detection.
The main differences between autoclave tapes are the sizes. Some are thinner and some are thicker. They are used for different sized sterile packaging. We must be able to tear them at the point of use without causing damage to the surrounding wrap, so sterile processing must use the right ones.
A tear in the surroundings could possibly contaminate that piece of gear and cause it to be useless. That’s a bummer since it is a waste of time and money. It could also delay procedures until a replacement for that gear is found. Small things like tape can often be overlooked, but very important like I said.
There are a few brands of indicator tape. Some people love one brand and don’t like the other. Sometimes I hear one will be too sticky and be tough to work with. A common problem that comes to mind is it tears poorly, along the vertical. What a pain in the ass!
A good rule of thumb is to check things like Amazon reviews or which ones have the best reviews. Keep in mind the size of sterile packaging you are working with and match the width of tape that fits your office.