An autoclave should revolutionize the efficiency of your setup. However, whether or not it does depends greatly on which model you choose. Among smaller, portable models, the two most common types of autoclaves are tabletop and vertical. Each has its advantages and fits different industries and niches.

We will delve into the pros and cons of each and why vertical autoclaves are the superior choice for almost every situation.

Table Top Autoclaves: Compact But Inefficient

Tabletop autoclaves are small, cube-shaped machines that look a lot like microwaves. The design of a tabletop autoclave typically features a front-loading chamber, digital control panels, and a variety of sterilization programs to accommodate different materials like instruments, glassware, plastics, and sometimes liquids. 

Tabletop autoclaves are common in small laboratories, breweries, and tattoo parlors, where space is at a premium, and the volume of materials is relatively low. These compact units sit on laboratory countertops alongside other equipment. Despite their small size, tabletop autoclaves are highly efficient, offering rapid sterilization cycles thanks to their advanced features and controls.

Advantages of table top autoclaves:

  • Space-saving design: Ideal for settings with limited floor space.
  • Ease of use: Often features digital controls and automatic cycles.
  • Quick turnaround: Fast sterilization cycles increase efficiency.

Disadvantages of table top autoclaves:

  • Counter space: since these sit on the countertop, they’re not ideal if you have limited counter space.
  • Use of space: as they use rectangular trays, tabletop autoclaves are less optimized for the circular drum.
  • Capacity: Because they’re not as efficient, and because of the limitations of a counter, they’re often very small, requiring more cycles per day.

Vertical Autoclaves: The Versatile Giants

TOMY Fast Lab Autoclave SX-Series openingIn contrast to the horizontal tabletop autoclave, vertical autoclaves are portable and generally are stored underneath the counter and pulled out as needed. They’re usually on wheels, which allows you to move them around the workspace as necessary. This type of autoclave is ideal for settings with changing spatial needs or where a fixed sterilization station is impractical.

The core feature of a vertical, portable autoclave is its tall, cylindrical chamber, which allows for the sterilization of tall equipment and large volumes of materials. Despite its capacity, the design is compact enough to ensure mobility and ease of storage. These autoclaves often come equipped with wheels or handles, enhancing their portability.

Depending on its specific configurations and dimensions, vertical autoclaves allow more oversized items and bulky or awkward ones. Because the drum is vertical, the trays are round, which means the tray sizes are consistent, they are better at accommodating round lab equipment, and they use the entirety of the cylinder, including the bottom and top.

Advantages of vertical autoclaves

  • High capacity: Suitable for sterilizing large items and volumes.
  • Versatility: Adjustable settings cater to various sterilization needs.
  • Efficiency: Ideal for facilities with high throughput requirements

Disadvantages of vertical autoclaves

  • Floor space: If you already have something under every table and little space to navigate, it may get in your way.
  • Ergonomics: If the people working have bad backs, it can be taxing to lift out the trays if they’re overloaded.

Why Vertical Autoclaves Come Out on Top

Since any autoclave sterilizer worth its salt will sterilize, the deciding factors lie elsewhere. How it fits in your space and workflow is a crucial element of whether an autoclave will improve your operation’s efficiency. And tabletop autoclaves fall short in a few key ways.


First of all, space is at a premium in most working environments. Since vertical autoclaves are built around the cylinder instead of working against the shape for the sake of resting horizontally, they’re far more efficient for what they are.

When considering size vs capacity, vertical autoclaves win hands down. Compared to a model with the same capacity, the Tomy SX-Series is significantly narrower and almost half as deep. And while the vertical autoclave is taller, vertical space is less important than horizontal. In terms of overall mass, the Tomy vertical autoclave is still about a quarter smaller than competitive tabletop models.


When not in use, it’s much easier to tuck a vertical autoclave out of the way under the counter, which takes up about as much room as a trashcan. In contrast, a countertop autoclave always takes up space, regardless of whether or not it’s in use. And in labs or other workplaces where countertop space is where most activity occurs, that can be a big problem.

Portability-wise, vertical autoclaves win as well. Their orientation makes for easy movement and goes anywhere you have an outlet. Unless the tabletop autoclave is on a wheeled cart, it must stay put. Compared to tabletop autoclaves of the same size, Tomy autoclaves are also significantly lighter because of their smaller mass.

TOMY Fast Lab Autoclave SX-Series Maximize CapacityThroughput

The last significant deciding factor is the autoclave’s throughput. An autoclave’s throughput measures how much it can sanitize. A large factor influencing the autoclave’s throughput is how many articles you can fit inside.

Because the trays work with and not against the cylindrical shape of the autoclave, you can fit significantly more into a vertical autoclave than a tabletop one. Not only does the round shape better accommodate most of the articles you will be autoclaving, but you also don’t have wasted space on the top and bottom of the autoclave you have when it’s on its side. 

A high throughput can give you the edge you need to increase your efficiency and sanitize faster.

The case for tabletop autoclaves

While the reasons above are a strong case for vertical autoclaves, in the interest of fairness, there are a few reasons to invest in a tabletop autoclave.

First, if you want to start small, there are smaller options for tabletop autoclaves that may be more affordable. 

Second, if the people who need to use the autoclave can’t access the vertical autoclave easily since they have the bend down, a tabletop autoclave may be a better option.

Lastly, a countertop may be the way to go if you have an overabundance of counter space and far less room to walk.

However, the vertical autoclave is the way to go for most setups.

Think Bigger

An autoclave should be a huge step up for your business. Where before, you had to wrestle with various unwieldy sterilization methods, an autoclave should streamline the sterilization process, making it easier than washing dishes. While there are some limited reasons to go with a tabletop autoclave, in the end, the vertical autoclave is the clear winner in terms of size, convenience, and throughput.

If you’re looking for an autoclave, you’re in luck. Tomy’s vertical autoclaves are a cut above the rest. See our offerings here.

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