How to Use Steam Sterilizers or Autoclaves Safely

Steam sterilizers (sometimes referred to as steam autoclaves, or just autoclaves) are an essential part of the decontamination and sterilization process performed in healthcare facilities. Sterilization is a common practice in medical and laboratory settings where it is vital to destroy microbial life, which could cause contamination, infection, or disease.

Steam sterilizers are very effectively at sterilizing because they use pressurized steam at temperatures of about 270 degrees within the chamber to the penetrate porous materials of the equipment – eradicating microorganisms. However, this high-pressure steam also can be hazardous to the operator and can also cause a malfunction without proper care and use.

To ensure the safety of operators and continued performance of the machine, follow these tips:

1. Read the manual

May seem obvious, but it is crucial in understanding the proper use of the steam sterilizer. Every sterilizer has different functions that are unique to that machine and its safe operation. Don’t ever assume you know how to use a particular sterilizer because you’ve used a different one in the past.

2. Regular Maintenance

Every month, ensure the machine is functioning properly by using a biological indicator. If the dye located on the sterilization bags and tape is not working, examine for possible problems and re-sterilize. Follow any daily or weekly-suggested maintenance, as well as ensuring the drain strainers are clean before each run.

3. Sterilizers Safety Basics

Any operator of the machine should be aware of the dangerous conditions of high heat and pressure.

  • Lock all doors and gaskets before operation.
  • Most steam sterilizers have safety interlocks to prevent the release of high-pressure steam, but not all, so be careful.
  • Not all sterilizers have heat shields either; so don’t touch the sterilizers while it’s operating unless you’re sure you won’t be burned.
  • Use heat-resistant gloves when removing contents.
  • Don’t leave anything flammable near the sterilizer.
  • Treat any burns immediately.


With best practice and quality equipment, you can ensure safe and injury-free steam sterilizer or autoclave use.


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