Autoclaves or steam sterilizers are an essential part of the healthcare industry. It is important to understand the required maintenance steps when your workspace has an autoclave or steam sterilizer. What many individuals fail to realize is that there are several regular maintenance steps necessary to comply with safety standards. This is precisely why it is important to be aware of required maintenance, complete it on time, and ultimately, protect the health of your patients. To learn more about the required maintenance, consider the information below:

Pre-Use Considerations

Before deciding what procedure to use with your autoclave or steam sterilizer, it is important to appreciate the importance of this machine to the safety of your patients and staff. Additionally, many practitioners lose a great deal of capital by failing to properly take care of their autoclave or not investing in the routine maintenance that is required. The result of this is that autoclaves or steam sterilizers will have a shorter life span, which costs a substantial amount of unnecessary capital to replace. In addition to the excessive cost, lack of maintenance also causes a risk of not sterilizing medical instruments properly, which could lead to increased infections in patients and staff alike.

Water Risks

Many technicians fail to see the importance of using the correct type of water with their autoclave or steam sterilizer. It is a common misconception that distilled water is best or tap water. Depending on what part of the United States your practice is in, it is important to avoid tap water due to the fluctuating quantity of minerals that are present in tap water. A similar precaution is also advised for distilled water, which is periodically confused with DI water (De-Ionized water). De-Ionized water is created from tap water through machinery found in most laboratories. Be sure to look closely at the type of water you are using with your autoclave or steam sterilizer to be sure that it is not causing unnecessary damage to the machine.

What to Do Daily

Due to the regular exposure, the autoclave or steam sterilizer will have to dangerous germs, the daily maintenance and cleaning are essential. Many experts recommend to use an ultrasonic cleaner to eliminate the blood or other tissue remains from medical instruments. This is important as they have the potential to damage both the instruments and the sterilizer. When considering how many instruments to place within the sterilizer, it is best to not put too many medical instruments inside as it will impact the cleanliness quality each instrument receives during the sterilization process. Each time the sterilization process occurs, it is important to utilize a test strip to see that the proper level of sterilization has been achieved. At times, medical professionals fail to do this, which causes the risk of increased infections due to lack of sterilization.

What to Do Weekly

Each week, it is important to perform a more in-depth cleaning on the autoclave. The trays need to be cleaned with a non-scratch surface and cleanser. It is wise to make sure that the autoclave is checked for remaining debris, soap, and liquid. This will help to eliminate the change of infectious bacteria growing within it. Each machine will have specifications about which soaps/cleaners should be used. Be sure to follow these instructions to avoid damaging the machine.

What to Do Monthly

The monthly cleaning is more involved and will typically require at least two gallons of water to successfully complete the process. Another part to check on the sterilizer is whether the cord has been damaged. If there is any damage to the cord, it could cause a large fire hazard. Be sure to send the sterilizer to a qualified repair company should the plug need to be replaced. Failure to do so could cause a great security risk within hospitals and doctor’s offices.

What to Do Yearly

It is important that you have a routine annual inspection of your autoclave. Granted, due to the frequency the machine is used each year, there are bound to be parts that need to be replaced. Due to the importance of the machine to patient and staff safety, it is best to stay current with the inspection schedule. Additionally, if your machine is used heavily, considering a bi-annual inspection could be a beneficial strategy. A part such as seals and filters are examples of what needs to be inspected.

When It Is Time to Replace Your Machine

If you are considering replacing your autoclave all together, view here for some potential models that may interest you. By researching these options carefully, it will absolutely be possible to find the proper machine for your facility that can last a long time, provided your staff follows the tips recommended above.

Final Remarks

Properly maintaining your autoclave or steam sterilizer is an important responsibility in the medical profession. The reason for this is that the consequences of not doing so put both patient and staff health at risk due to lack of sterilization. Not maintaining the machine properly also costs more capital in the long term due to the short life span that the autoclave or steam sterilizer would have as a result. From the moment that your facility purchases a new autoclave or steam sterilizer, it is important to have staff training to ensure that each machine is used properly and safely. Routine cleanings/maintenance should vary based on daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly protocols. Certain soaps/cleaning products should be used to ensure the best possible sterilization results. In terms of water, water should be a key focus of the cleaning process so that there is not a high mineral content, which would negatively impact the machine. Be sure to carefully research the care/maintenance instructions on the autoclave or steam sterilization machine that you decide to put in your facility. Doing so will serve your organization positively in the longer term regarding your organization’s safety and repair budget.