Most people think about autoclaves belonging in a hospital, but they are important in tattoo shops, beauty and barber shops, dentist offices, veterinarians and many other fields.
An autoclave is a pressure chamber that is used to sterilize equipment and supplies. When these items are placed inside the autoclave they are exposed to high temperature steam (usually around 132 degrees Celsius or 270 degrees Fahrenheit) for about twenty minutes. These times vary based on the amount and physical size of the equipment that needs sterilized. This hot steam will kill germs that simple detergent or boiling water could not.
Similar to pressure cookers, steam sterilizer autoclaves work quickly and effectively because of their high temperature. The machine's temperature and unique shape make it easier to hold the heat inside much longer. The autoclave also does a great job of efficiently penetrating each piece of equipment. The autoclave's chambers are usually in the shape of a cylinder because cylindrical shapes are more equipped to handle the high pressure that is needed for the sterilization process to work. For safety reasons, there is an outside lock and a safety valve that prevents the autoclave steam sterilizer's pressure from getting too high.
How Autoclaves Work
Once you close the autoclave sterilizer chamber, a vacuum pump removes all the air from inside the device or it is forced out by pumping in steam. If done the first way, the sterilizer is pumped with high pressured steam to quickly raise the internal temperature. On every autoclave there is a thermometer that is waiting for the thermal sweet point, 268-273 degrees Fahrenheit, and then it starts its timer. During the sterilizing process, steam is continuously entering the autoclave to thoroughly kill all dangerous microorganisms. Once the required time of sterilization has the elapsed, the chamber will be exhausted of pressure and steam allowing the door to open for cooling and drying of the contents.