Critical autoclave mistakes to avoid

Autoclaves are a crucial part to operating a variety of industries. They are excellent sterilisation devices that ensure your medical equipment is completely sterile and up to standard for use. Playing such a vital role within these industries, it is important that critical mistakes that can affect the functionality of an autoclave are avoided, which is what I am here to help you with today. 

Read on to ensure your autoclave runs effectively and smoothly.

Using the wrong water in your autoclave

Yes, it is possible to use different types of water in your autoclave such as tap water, deionised water and distilled water although some types of water are better than others long term.

Tap water

Not only is tap water quality extremely diverse everywhere you go, but it also contains many minerals that risk building up within the autoclave upon pressurisation. A buildup of minerals within an autoclave long term, inevitably risks the longevity and functionality of the machine which is why it is not encouraged.

Distilled water & Dionised water

Distilled water is a kind of purified water. It is highly recommended for use within autoclaves as 99% impurities such as chlorine and dissolved solids that may impact the overall function of an autoclave, have been removed from it. This is done by being boiled into steam then, converted back to liquid. After this process, distilled water still holds some electrical conductivity which is great for autoclave/sterilisation use.

Dionised water is also a purified type of water, it has all impurities including any electrical charging atoms or molecules entirely removed from it. Dionised water can still be used with an autoclave provided that it is a suitable choice for your branded autoclave (check with the manufacturer). However, having all electrical charge removed from the water won't be as effective as distilled water that holds electrical conductivity.


Improper packaging/overloading

By overlapping instrument packs or overloading your autoclave you will not only prolong the warm-up time per cycle but, your equipment will not be sterilised to Australian Safety Standards, leaving your clinic to use instruments that are unsterile, putting your clients/patients at risk of infections and diseases.

It is crucial that your instrument packs are completely sealed and laid out flat on the trays without overlapping one another.

All instruments no matter the autoclave class, should be packed and sealed into sterilisation pouches. Sealing instruments allows the steam to build up within, getting into all the hard-to-get crevasse. If items are placed into an autoclave without being packaged and enclosed properly or at all, these hard-to-get areas may be missed. Additionally, as soon as they come out of the autoclave, they are then deemed unsterile and are not acceptable for use.

Find sterilisation pouches here: SafeSeal Quattro Sterilisation Pouches – LuxeMED


Irregular autoclave steam tests & servicing

There is no point going through the process of 'sterilising' your equipment if your autoclave isn't sterilising at all. This is why it is important to complete regular tests, this can be done by using Helix Test Strips. It is also very important to keep a close eye on your data logs to ensure each and every cycle is being completed as it should. Additionally, no matter how well your autoclave is doing, it is recommended that you service your autoclave a minimum of once every 12 months to ensure longevity, the idea is to prevent problems from arising not cure them.


Autoclavable items

Not all items can be steilised within an autoclave. As an autoclave reaches extremely high temperatures, some materials will not be able to undergo a cycle and will result in the particular items melting and damaging the autoclave chamber floor. This is mostly plastics however, some plastics are durable enough.

To be sure that your items are autoclave safe, ensure the product melting point is higher than the autoclave maximum temperature. However, here is a rough guide of what cannot and should not be autoclaved:

  • Explosive Material
  • Acids
  • Reactive, Corrosive, or Toxic Materials
  • Flammable Material
  • Radioactive Material
  • Chlorine Based (or chlorine included) Products



Autoclaves are a crucial part to the function and operation of a variety of medical industries. They allow clinics and laboratories to sterilise equipment with ease. To ensure the longevity and functionality of an autoclave, correct handling procedures must be followed. This includes, but is not limited to, using the correct water, packing the items and chamber correctly, running regular steam and cycle tests, regular servicing and ensuring your items are autoclave safe. 

To ensure you are getting the most out of your autoclave, it is very important to undergo training which can be provided by the manufacturer of your autoclave. 

As any machine, autoclaves need regular servicing and care. If you purchase an autoclave from us and require maintenance or servicing or have any questions at all, please contact our friendly staff, we are more than happy to assist you!

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