An autoclave sterilizer is a device used in biomedical and pharmaceutical applications to sterilize instruments and supplies by means of moist heat. This involves adding pressurized saturated steam at a temperature of approximately 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The purpose of an autoclave is to kill bacteria and other microorganisms, thus sterilizing surgical instruments, bottles and other implements.
Autoclaves are classified depending on the way they remove the air from the sterilization chamber at the beginning of the process: The vapor can force it out when added (positive pressure displacement) or it can be removed with a vacuum pump (negative pressure displacement). Regarding their capacity, the smallest and simplest ones are the so-called stovetops, which require an external source of heat and are relatively inexpensive and small, and for industrial or high-volume uses there are large, built-in models available. These are usually programmable so that different cycles can be used, depending on the material to sterilize.
Hospitals, dentist’s offices and other businesses--including tattoo and piercing shops--use autoclave sterilizers. It's the most necessary dental equipment for a dentist. This piece of equipment sterilizes disposable items--like gauze--and sterilizes instruments for surgeries and medical procedures. An autoclave uses a combination of steam, heat and pressure to sterilize the contents of the load. All contents that are removed from an autoclave are handled with clean gloves to avoid compromising the sterile pouch with oils or bacteria from the hands.
Autoclaves work at high temperatures and pressures, and this makes them potentially very dangerous. Remember that after a sterilization cycle is finished, the autoclave chamber and its contents are very hot. It is good practice to let them cool down for at least 10 minutes before opening the autoclave, and to wear heat-resistant gloves. Additionally, if there is a tear hazard (as when surgical instruments have been sterilized), then the gloves should also be cut-resistant.