What are the most common types of autoclave machines used for sterilization?

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Steam sterilization via autoclave can be achieved with many different types of machines today. Their effectiveness, ease of use, as well as sustainable operation have made them very popular all over the world and are being used by more and more medical facilities today.

The catch? There is more than just one type of autoclave machine that can be used for sterilization! In this article, you will learn more about the differences between the different kinds of steam sterilizers and be able to make your choice more easily!

About autoclave machines and steam sterilization

Autoclaves (AKA steam sterilizers) use high-pressure and high-temperature steam to guarantee complete sterilization and the destruction of even heat-resistant bacteria. The temperature of the steam inside their chamber can reach well over 100 degrees since the higher pressure also raises the boiling point of water (and thus steam).

This allows them to either make medical waste harmless before it can be transported away or disposed of, or to sterilize certain tools and medical equipment so they can be used again to treat patients without any infections risks to them or medical staff.

As for the different types of autoclave machines, they can mostly be differentiated by 2 main factors: class (efficiency and types of loads handled), as well as size (chamber capacity).

Types of autoclave machines used for sterilization – according to class

  1. Class N autoclave machines

Class N steam sterilizers represent the “lowest” class available and should only be chosen if you only plan on sterilizing materials with a solid structure, and you do not mind not having a drying option. Hollow, porous, and packaged loads are not compatible with this kind of device.

  • Class S autoclave machines

A step up from the previous class, class S steam sterilizers can already handle more complex instruments like packed loads or more massive tools. They come equipped with a single-stage vacuum pump that while effective, still cannot reach the sterilization levels of the most advanced models, and thus cannot be used to treat instruments with a capillary construction and textiles.

  • Class B autoclave machines

Class B steam sterilizers are without a question the best option available on the market, and one that medical facilities should definitely try and get ahold of, since they can handle even the most complex loads. With their highly effective vacuum system, extra safety measures, and ease of use, they can certainly make the life of medical staff easier.

Types of autoclave machines used for sterilization – according to size

  1. Small tabletop autoclaves

Smaller dental or other clinics probably will not have the same amount of space available as hospitals, and won’t even generate as much waste, or use as many tools. Their capacity is about 25 liters.

  • Medium autoclave machines

Ideal for larger medical facilities that need a steam sterilizer that can handle more materials at a time, but still does not take up as much space, such as operating theaters in hospitals. Their capacity ranges from 75 to 200 liters.

  • Class B autoclave machines

If a large medical facility needs all the help it can get, the largest steam sterilizers can certainly get the job done: their capacity ranges from 110 to 880 litres!