Laboratory Autoclave: What Makes them Different? (A Guide)

A laboratory autoclave is a central machine to the function of any lab.  Labs do weird stuff and need sterilizers with weird capabilities!  Often they need to decontaminate and sterilize liquids or 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…

Liquids Need to be Sterilized in Labs

Labs work with a lot of liquids for different purposes.  For various experiments and tests, sterile fluids are vital.  Any bacterial or fungal contamination can throw off numbers or completely throw off results.  That leads to a ton of wasted time and that means wasted money, of course!

A lab steam sterilizer must be capable of sterilizing liquids.  A special fluid cycle is usually added to a lab sterilizer.  Processing fluids is also the reason most lab autoclaves are loaded from the top, in order to have room for beakers.

Lab Autoclaves Decontaminate Biohazard Waste

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 this 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.  Each country has their own regulations about lab sterilizers.

Since liquids and hazardous wastes need to go into the sterilizer, lab autoclaves are often vertically loaded.  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.

Last Thoughts to Consider about Lab Steam Sterilizers

As a last tip about lab autoclaves, make sure that you choose the correct size.  This is the number one mistake people making in the sterilzier buying process. It must be large enough to handle all of your sterilization and decontamination needs.  But, you also don’t want to waste your lab space and money on one that is too big.

I suggest measuring everything you have that is going to be processed in your autoclave.  Compare the sizes to the machines you are browsing.

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!

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