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Autoclaves may be responsible for cleaning most things in a lab, but they also need some TLC. Autoclaves are expensive and important lab equipment that keep your operation running smoothly.

While an autoclave sterilizes through temperature and steam, it doesn’t remove any debris that may fall into the chamber or onto the racks. Routine cleaning is critical to autoclave maintenance and will ensure the autoclave’s longevity.

These tips apply specifically to TOMY brand autoclaves, but much of it will broadly apply to other autoclaves. Just make sure to contact your specific manufacturer for information relating to your autoclave.

Preemptive Action

Cleaning your autoclave shouldn’t be a huge chore, but it can become one if you don’t take some precautions when using it day to day.

The most important thing is to limit the number of spills within your autoclave. If you’re often sterilizing open bottles of culture media or other solutions, switch from the standard baskets to something with a solid bottom.

Even if the media doesn’t seem like it’s going to spill, the high temperatures that an autoclave reaches can cause any liquid to boil and spill over into the chamber, where it can eventually leak into the heating element.

If you notice spills, take extra care when cleaning out your autoclave that day to ensure nothing hardens.

How To Clean an Autoclave, Broken Down

Before cleaning, make sure your autoclave is turned off, unplugged, and cooled down.

Daily Tasks

These are tasks you need to perform each time you use the autoclave. They shouldn’t take too long, but keeping up with them will ensure the more periodic cleaning isn’t too extensive.

  1. Wipe the exterior: Unless there has been a significant spill in the lab, keeping the outside clean should consist of a quick wipe-down with a microfiber towel and a gentle cleaner that won’t hurt the exterior.
  2. Drain the chamber: Open the valve underneath the machine to let the water drain into a container or drain. Ensure all the water has drained and none is sitting at the bottom. Water left overnight can increase the risk of corrosion or mineral buildup.
  3. Remove the baskets: At the end of the day, you should remove the baskets and wash them with soap and water and a sponge or brush. This will ensure that anything that may have dripped onto them during the day has been physically removed.
  4. Clean the chamber: Open the top of your TOMY autoclave and wipe down the interior with a damp cloth and a mild cleaner. It’s recommended to use microfiber to avoid scratching the interior, as this can create niches for microbial growth and shorten the lifespan of your autoclave.

Weekly Tasks

  1. Clean and inspect the gasket: The gasket is one autoclave part that breaks down faster than the rest since it’s regularly subjected to so much heat and pressure. Cleaning it with a soft, damp cloth can help extend its lifespan. It’s also a good opportunity to inspect it visually for any wear and tear. Learn more about changing an autoclave’s gasket here.
  2. Remove residue on the heating element: Keeping the heating element free of debris will extend its life span and increase its efficacy. For TOMY SX-Series autoclaves, you can easily access the heating element by removing the bottom plate in the chamber. To get a full list of recommended cleaners, you can contact us here or via email at tomy@amuzainc.com.

Monthly Tasks

  1. Perform a deep clean on the chamber: This isn’t as intensive as it sounds. It mainly means applying the TOMY-recommended cleaner to the chamber, leaving it to soak for the specified duration, and then rinsing or wiping it down. This will help with any buildup that may have occurred and should keep your chamber from corroding.
  2. Test the safety features and calibration: Once a month, you should check to make sure everything is still calibrated and functioning correctly. Our article on autoclave maintenance explores these steps further, and they’ll also be listed in your manual.

A Note on Water Quality

We have a longer article on what kind of water to use in an autoclave, but for cleaning, what’s important is preventing mineral buildup. Typical water has trace amounts of minerals, the amounts of which vary depending on where in the United States you live. Over time, hard water leaves a mineral residue that’s extremely difficult to clean and can seriously damage your heating element.

If you’re using a front-loading, stationary autoclave, you can do little since a hose connected to a tap typically supplies the autoclave with water. However, TOMY’s top-loading portable autoclaves allow you to add water, which lets you perform more quality control.

Tomy autoclaves recommend you use DI (deionized) water, with a cup of tap water added to activate the water sensor. This will minimize limescale buildup and significantly improve the issues surrounding water mineral buildup.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Even if you’re following your cleaning regimen, some issues can still arise.

If you’re dealing with persistent unpleasant smells, that may indicate a buildup of biofilm or some other contaminant. Generally, a deep clean of the chamber followed by an empty sterilization cycle will resolve this. If not, contact us, and we’ll help you find a solution.

If your chamber has spots or staining, this is usually from the water you’re using. Descaling solutions can correct the existing spots. Then, you may want to check in with your current water practices to make sure you’re not using too much tap water.

Cleaning Your Autoclave

Keeping your autoclave in top condition doesn’t take too much work, but keeping up with cleaning does make a big difference in its performance and longevity. Generally, taking preemptive steps and keeping up with daily cleaning will get you most of the way. Choosing the proper water ratio and committing to an occasional deep clean will get you the rest.

If you need more help with how to clean an autoclave, don’t hesitate to contact us.

An autoclave can make your lab infinitely more efficient, and if you haven’t already purchased one, now is the time. Contact us today to learn more about TOMY autoclaves!

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