0

Last Updated on March 1, 2024

TOMY Fast Lab Autoclave SX-Series Saves You Lots

A clean and well-maintained autoclave is central to a sterile, well-functioning (and happy) laboratory environment!

Though autoclaves, sometimes referred to as steam sterilizers, are pieces of equipment designed to disinfect and sterilize laboratory media (glassware, plastic ware, etc.) as well as biohazard waste, they must be maintained and used in a way that allows them to function properly and is suitable for long-term use. This is especially true of steam sterilizers or gravity autoclaves, which heat water to extremely high temperatures up to 135° C and subject media (and the autoclave sterilizer itself) to high temperature and pressure.

Autoclave maintenance includes:

  • Using the proper type of water
  • Autoclaving in a way that prevents media from spilling into your autoclave
  • Regularly changing the gaskets

All of these maintenance techniques help to maximize sterilization ability and extend the lifetime of your autoclave.

Tips for Care and Maintenance of Autoclaves

Drain the water

Another source of damage to autoclaves, especially autoclave heaters, is dirty water that sits in the autoclave chamber. At high temperatures and pressure, impurities that get into the water from the autoclaved media can stick and burn to the autoclave heater, preventing the heater from transferring heat and permanently damaging it, potentially rendering your autoclave obsolete.

There are several steps you can take to clean and maintain your autoclave.

For Tomy SX-Series autoclave maintenance, we can drain water from the autoclave chamber by:

  • Opening the drainage valve (green handle) under the machine.
  • Draining this into a container for disposal.

For biohazardous material and water disposal, especially for BSL (Bio Safety Leve1) 2 and above laboratories, please contact the Center for Disease Control or the relevant national authority for disposal instructions.

Wipe the insides

Besides draining water from the autoclave chamber, the inside of the autoclave needs to be wiped out with a soft cloth and mild detergent, and the heating element should be cleansed. For Tomy SX-Series Autoclaves, we can access the heating element by removing the bottom plate inside the chamber. To maintain performance and increase the longevity of your machine, we also recommend periodically removing any residue that builds up inside the chamber, especially on the heating element. For the type of cleaners we recommend, please contact us here or via email at tomy@amuzainc.com.

Prevent water from spilling into your machine

Another important maintenance method for keeping your autoclave clean is to prevent autoclave media from spilling or boiling over into the water in your machine. If using open bottles of culture media or other types of solutions, please use the bucket-type inserts or solid bottom tall baskets (as opposed to the standard baskets that come with your machine) to prevent solutions from overflowing into chamber water and sticking to / burning onto the heater unit.

Check your safety valve

It’s essential to inspect your autoclave’s safety valve, also known as a bleed valve, to ensure it is operating properly. Check to see if there are any damages or anything blocking the valve. Doing so is important so that the steam pressure can continue to escape from the autoclave valve. To perform an inspection, use a long tool–not your hands to prevent potential burns–to open the bleed valve by pulling on the relief pin for two seconds and then releasing. Repeat the process a couple of times for good measure.

Use de-ionized water (DI water)

One priority when operating autoclave sterilizers that use steam is to use the proper type of water. The most plentiful, cheap, and easy-to-access water source is tap water. However, the high mineral content of tap water in many areas can cause problems for your machine. In many parts of the United States, tap water contains a high mineral content, including lime, which can calcify and leave a residue on the autoclave heater and inside the chamber, leading to permanent and irreversible damage, especially to the heating unit, which is central to the sound operation of the autoclave. For water mineral content (hardness/alkalinity) by area in the United States, please visit this page.

To prevent the problems caused by high mineral content water, autoclave sterilizers that use steam should be operated with DI water, which stands for De-Ionized water and is also referred to as Demineralized Water. This type of water can be purchased or created by de-ionizing tap water using special equipment found in most laboratories. Though they are often confused with one another and sometimes used interchangeably, please note that DI water is not the same as Distilled Water, as they are created using different processes and can change the outcome of experiments. More information on the differences can be found here.

For Tomy SX-Series autoclave maintenance, use DI water along with a small amount of tap water, as the water sensor works by detecting ions in the water, as opposed to the water itself.

  • Please fill the autoclave chamber with enough DI water to cover the heater (up to the bottom plate inside the chamber)
  • Submerge the water level sensor (small metal knob that protrudes from the inside of the autoclave chamber),
  • Add a small amount of tap water to make sure that the water sensor can detect ions.

Change the gasket

Thick and sturdy, high-quality gaskets for the TOMY SX-Series can save your organization thousands of dollars over several years.

Keeping the lid gasket, also known as an autoclave door seal, in top condition is a vital maintenance practice to keep your autoclave in proper working condition, ensuring adequate sanitization for autoclave media and laboratory safety. When autoclaving, the gasket is subject to high temperature and pressure, which can cause cracking and lead to leaks in the autoclave and will prevent the autoclave from achieving the temperature and pressure for sterilization, as well as lead to other problems and damage to your autoclave.

The recommended maintenance time for replacing the lid gasket is 3 years or fewer, especially if the autoclave is used frequently and is constantly subject to the high temperature and pressure of autoclaving. If you’re using a Tomy SX-Series Autoclave and are due for a replacement, contact us and refer to the following Tomy autoclave lid gasket models/part numbers:

How Often Should an Autoclave Be Cleaned?

Top-loading lab autoclaves' vertically aligned chambers are ideal for sterilizing bioreactors and fermentors

The chamber should be cleaned regularly to remove solution residue that can damage your autoclave.

One question that’s commonly asked is how often you should clean autoclaves. These are delicate equipment that require constant care and maintenance. To increase the longevity of your autoclave, it’s best to clean them on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis. But don’t feel overwhelmed. Each autoclave maintenance tip has its own recommended cleaning frequency.

  • Daily: Clean the interior, including the heating element. Wipe any spills after each cycle. Keep it free from any debris.
  • Weekly: Drain the water from the reservoir. Refill the autoclave chamber with de-ionized water.
  • Monthly: Check your bleed and safety valve to see if it’s properly functioning. Do some extra cleaning in the chamber. Look at wires or cords with any wear and tear, and be sure to get those replaced.
  • Annual: Inspect your entire autoclave. Check to see what needs to be changed or replaced, such as a lid gasket.

Next Steps

As laid out above, no matter what you use your autoclave sterilizer for, using the proper type of water and buckets & baskets for autoclave media in addition to regular maintenance (including changing your autoclave gaskets) can both prevent damage to your autoclave and give it the proper treatment for long-term use.

TOMY Centrifuge Raffle Winner at NIH Spring Vendor Show

Previous Article

TOMY Multi Spin Micro Centrifuge Raffle Winner at UC-San Diego Biotech Vendor Showcase

Next Article

Recent Blogs & Vlogs

Can You Autoclave It? A Short Guide to What You Can and Can’t Autoclave

Can You Autoclave It? A Short Guide to What You Can and Can’t Autoclave

Autoclaving is an efficient and effective sterilization method for labs, breweries, dentist offices, tattoo parlors, and other places that consistently need sterilized items. However, while autoclaves are effective for many materials, some articles are either unsafe in the autoclave or will degrade when subjected to heat, pressure, and steam. We’ve already explored how autoclaves are […]

How To Spore Test an Autoclave

How To Spore Test an Autoclave

Discover why spore testing is crucial for autoclave sterilization and how TOMY's autoclave selection ensures efficient and safe lab operations.