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Autoclaves are vital tools in various industries, particularly healthcare, laboratories, and manufacturing, where sterilization is paramount. The autoclave process is simple and user-friendly, but since sterilization is a high-stakes operation, it’s good to get a handle on the steps.

For our purposes, we’re focusing on TOMY’s gravity-displacement vertical autoclave line. This is a general overview for informational purposes; you should use the operator’s manual for precise instructions and warnings. 

While the steps may apply to other varieties of autoclaves, you should check with your manufacturer to ensure you’re following the correct process. In this guide, we’ll delve into the step-by-step process of autoclaving, highlighting the features of TOMY autoclaves along the way.

Introduction to Autoclaving

In case you’re reading this as an introduction to the autoclaving process, autoclaving is a popular sterilization method that uses high pressure and steam to eliminate bacteria, viruses, fungi, and spores from equipment, instruments, and materials. Autoclaving is crucial to ensuring safety and preventing contamination in various fields, including medical, pharmaceutical, research, and food industries.

The TOMY vertical autoclaves stand out for their compact design, portability, and ease of use. Their vertical chamber allows for efficient space utilization, while its gravity displacement mechanism ensures thorough sterilization by removing air from the chamber before introducing steam. Equipped with user-friendly controls and safety features, the TOMY autoclave offers reliability and peace of mind.

Step-by-Step Guide to Autoclaving with TOMY

1. Preparation

Before starting the autoclave cycle, ensure that it is properly set up and maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You should follow the daily, weekly, and monthly guidelines for autoclave maintenance

This is a self-explanatory step, but especially for first-time use, you must check if the power supply and grounding have been adequately carried out. If everything is in order, all you need to do is press ON and wait 5 seconds. All the operating conditions for the last cycle will automatically show up on your screen.

Check that the displayed pressure is 0MPa on the display (and that the operation or completion indication isn’t illuminated). If these conditions aren’t met, opening the autoclave is unsafe. If everything is good to go, press the lid lock button with your foot while pressing the lid handle of the unit. Then, pull the lid up.

You’ll be able to remove the baskets at this point.

Check the water level to ensure enough water is available for steam generation. If not, use these guides to determine the type of water you need to refill your autoclave. Also, ensure the exhaust bottle’s water level is between the lowest and highest levels. This helps with cooling.

2. Loading

Carefully load the items to be sterilized into the autoclave chamber, ensuring proper spacing and arrangement to allow steam to penetrate effectively. Avoid overloading the chamber, as it may compromise sterilization efficiency.

We have a more in-depth guide to help load delicate items in an autoclave. However, some essential things to remember are not to load anything with a lid firmly on (to prevent pressure from building up) and to place anything delicate in autoclaving bags. Also, avoid autoclaving delicate plastics unless you intend to throw them away.

3. Programming

Using the intuitive control panel, select the appropriate sterilization cycle based on the type of materials being sterilized and the manufacturer’s recommendations. The TOMY autoclave offers customizable cycle parameters for various loads and sterilization requirements.

Generally, you should program the temperature for 121°C and a cycle time of 20 minutes. This doesn’t include the heating and cooling, so build that extra time in. You may also want to extend those times when autoclaving glass to protect its structural integrity and reduce breakage.

4. Sterilization

Once the cycle is initiated, the autoclave chamber is sealed, and the air is removed through gravity displacement. Steam is then introduced into the chamber, reaching the desired temperature and pressure for sterilization.

The TOMY autoclave maintains precise control over time, temperature, and pressure throughout the cycle to ensure effective sterilization. You can monitor the cycle using the included gauges or the optional temperature sensor, which measures the exact temperature of the articles you’re autoclaving.

However, unlike a pressure cooker—another method of steam sterilization, you don’t have to babysit the autoclave while it sterilizes. Provided you’ve kept up with maintenance, your autoclave can safely sterilize your articles.

5. Cooling

After the sterilization phase, the autoclave gradually releases pressure and cools down to a safe temperature. The cooling phase is crucial to prevent thermal shock to the sterilized items and ensure their integrity.

6. Unloading

A buzzer will sound once the autoclave has cooled and depressurized. When the temperature falls below a preset level, the buzzer will sound six more times, and the lid will unlock and open. Check that the chamber has hit atmospheric pressure. 

Press the stop key after completing the operation. Then, carefully remove the sterilized items from the chamber using appropriate protective equipment. Handle the items carefully to avoid contamination and ensure their sterility until use.

7. Draining

One of the last steps is to drain the water used during sterilization. Open the chamber lid and remove the exhaust bottle. Pull out the drain hose and place whatever you’re using as a drain container beneath it. Let the water drain, and then return the drain hose and exhaust bottle.

8. Documentation

Record essential information such as cycle parameters, load contents, and sterilization date and time for quality control and regulatory compliance. Proper documentation ensures traceability and accountability in the sterilization process. The exact documentation will depend on the industry you’re in and the level of regulation.

The Autoclave Process Produces Reliable Sterilization in 8 Simple Steps

The autoclave process is critical to sterilization in various industries, and the TOMY gravity displacement portable vertical autoclave offers a reliable and efficient solution. By following the step-by-step guide outlined above, you can confidently achieve thorough sterilization of equipment and materials. 

With its compact design, user-friendly interface, and precise control, the TOMY autoclave is a valuable asset for any facility where sterilization is paramount. Contact us today to learn more about the TOMY autoclave and how it can fit into your workflow!

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