For many years, no one realized that cleanliness and sterilization affected health. In fact, it was just over 150 years ago that people realized doctors should wash their hands before surgery.
Since then, the need for sterilization has become clear. The right equipment, such as the laboratory autoclave, also makes sterilization easier than ever before.
Wondering which type of autoclave you should use to keep your tools sterile and clean? We've put together our top tips for choosing the best autoclave - keep reading before you make your choice.
What is a Laboratory Autoclave?
Medical or laboratory autoclaves clean equipment using steam. Charles Chamberland, a microbiologist, first invented this device in the late 19th century, not long after the concept of sterilization had been discovered.
An autoclave uses a pressure chamber to expose devices to saturated steam at high temperatures. This kills any microbes on the devices quickly and effectively.
Autoclaves can be used in any facility that needs sterilization. They're common in research labs, dental and doctor's offices, and food preparation facilities. They allow for temperature adjustments, so materials that can't withstand extreme heat can still get sterilized.
The steam in the autoclave transfers heat more effectively than ordinary hot air. This heat can kill microbes. It raises the temperature of the microbes' cells so much that their cell walls actually start to break down. This is an efficient sterilization method for all kinds of materials.
How Lab Autoclaves Work
No matter which type of lab autoclave you choose, they all work in essentially the same way.
First, you'll put the device to be sterilized in the autoclave and turn it on. The steam starts to enter the sealed chamber, displacing the air inside. Both the pressure and the temperature inside start to rise.
After all the steam has displaced the air, the exhaust valve automatically closes, so the temperature and pressure can rise even further. The autoclave stays at this temperature for the correct amount of time to achieve sterilization.
Finally, the device lets out the exhaust through the exhaust valve. The pressure inside goes back to normal. However, it will take more time for the heat to dissipate.
How to Choose the Best Laboratory Autoclave
Laboratory autoclaves let you sterilize all different types of equipment quickly and easily. However, there are a few different kinds to choose from. Let's take a look at how to pick the best lab autoclave for your needs.
1. Know Your Sterilization Needs
Which instruments do you plan to sterilize? Different items need different times and temperatures to become completely sterile. If you know what your needs are, you can more easily pick the right kind of autoclave.
The material of your items that need sterilization will mostly dictate which type of autoclave to get. If you mainly work with porous items, you should get a pre-vacuum autoclave. This type removes all the air from the chamber before adding steam, for more powerful sterilization.
If you work more with non-porous items, you can get a gravity autoclave instead. This type of autoclave can sterilize non-porous materials, and even liquids, effectively.
2. Consider Ease of Use
In a medical office, things can get busy, and sometimes you need to sterilize equipment fast. This means you'll want a machine that's easy to use. Otherwise, your staff might get bogged down in trying to figure out the machine.
The best autoclaves can be automatically set to sterilize, cool down, and dry your items. If someone needs to be in the room, monitoring the process, you'll lose a lot of time when your staff could be doing other tasks.
3. Buy the Right Size
How many instruments do you usually need to sterilize at once? You should buy an autoclave that's big enough to keep up with your needs.
However, you'll also need to think about the space you have to keep it. If you don't have much room in your office, you might need to get a smaller model, at least until you can find somewhere to put a bigger one.
4. Look for a Trusted Manufacturer
Your manufacturer should sell high-quality equipment to customers who are pleased with what they get. If you can't find any information about an autoclave manufacturer online, you probably shouldn't trust their products.
Make sure that the company has a strong reputation, and check that their products are FDA-approved. Otherwise, you could be putting your patients and staff in needless danger.
5. Decide on New or Used
You can get safe, effective sterilization with both new and used autoclaves. Making this choice just depends on your budget. A quality autoclave will work for years, even decades.
Sometimes, a new one is worth the extra money because you know it will last for years to come. But if your practice is strapped for cash, there's nothing wrong with buying a used one instead.
Just check the warranty to make sure any used model you get will still work well. Consider whether the warranty covers parts, labor, or both. If it's a used model, make sure there's an easy way to get replacement parts from the seller or another source.
6. Know Your Setup
Where will the steam come from in your office? It's helpful to know where you'll be setting up your autoclave, not only so you can get the right size, but so you can get the right design.
Different models use different mechanisms. Not all of them may work in the office setup you have. If you have questions, a rep from the autoclave company should be able to guide you toward the right model for your needs.
Finding Laboratory Autoclaves Online
Many trusted laboratory autoclave sellers now operate online. This makes it easier than ever to find the perfect device for your medical office.
If you need a trusted source of high-quality autoclaves, start by checking out our selection. We have affordable used autoclaves in many different sizes and styles to meet your needs.