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Autoclaves, also known as autoclave sterilizers, are commonly used within the medical and dental professions to sterilise medical instruments and dental equipment before they are used. They work by using saturated steam, under pressure at the highest temperature compatible with the instrument. In order for the autoclave to do its job, the steam needs to come into direct contact with all surfaces on the instrument, to ensure all micro-organisms are destroyed. To do this, a vacuum is created. As long as the instrument allows for it, the autoclave should sterilise each instrument for three minutes at 134 degrees.

Buying an Autoclave

An autoclave is a fairly substantial purchase, which means it's important to assess the various factors that will affect the autoclave's use. Before buying an autoclave, think about where it will be placed, as this will affect the size of the autoclave that can be purchased. Next look at the size of the chamber. A larger chamber will allow for the sterilisation of larger items, but may take a longer time to complete each cycle. For those who only need to sterilise smaller items, an autoclave with a smaller chamber may be more efficient.

This is a good time to look at the cycle time of the autoclave. Ensure the autoclave offers a full range of cycles for the tasks it will be expected to do, and bear in mind, the quicker the cycle time, the quicker each set of instruments will be sterilised. Another aspect to look at is heater design. Choose a heater that heats the water outside of the chamber to ensure each load is completely dry at the end of the cycle, while saving money on distilled water going into the machine. It's also a good idea to choose an autoclave that uses fresh water with each cycle, to reduce contamination from previous cycles. Lastly, check for any additional features that may come in useful, and that the autoclave has a suitable warranty.

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