Difference Between Autoclave and Dry Heat Sterilizer


Sterilization is a crucial process in the healthcare industry, food processing, and other related fields. It is a process that eliminates or kills all forms of microbial life, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and spores. Two common types of sterilizers are the autoclave and dry heat sterilizer. Although both sterilizers aim to eliminate microbes, they differ in several ways. This essay examines the difference between an autoclave and a dry heat sterilizer.

What is an Autoclave?

An autoclave is a type of sterilizer that uses steam and pressure to sterilize equipment, surgical instruments, and medical devices. It is a highly effective sterilization method that kills microorganisms through a combination of heat, pressure, and steam.

The autoclave operates by increasing the temperature of the water in the chamber to create steam, which is then pressurized to increase its temperature further. The resulting high temperature and pressure kill all forms of microbial life, including spores, viruses, and bacteria. Autoclaves are commonly used in hospitals, dental clinics, and laboratories.

What is a Dry Heat Sterilizer?

A dry heat sterilizer is a sterilization method that uses high temperatures to kill microorganisms. Unlike the autoclave, which uses steam and pressure, the dry heat sterilizer uses hot air to sterilize equipment and medical devices.

Dry heat sterilization is commonly used in the food industry, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and research laboratories. The dry heat sterilizer uses temperatures of up to 320 degrees Celsius to kill microorganisms, including bacteria and spores. It is a reliable sterilization method that is ideal for equipment and materials that cannot withstand steam sterilization.

Differences: Autoclave and Dry Heat Sterilizer

One major difference between an autoclave and a dry heat sterilizer is the mechanism of action. The autoclave uses a combination of heat, pressure, and steam to sterilize equipment and medical devices, while the dry heat sterilizer uses only high temperatures. The autoclave is ideal for materials that can withstand heat and pressure, while the dry heat sterilizer is ideal for equipment and materials that cannot withstand steam sterilization.

Another difference between the two sterilizers is the time required for sterilization. Autoclaves require longer sterilization times compared to dry heat sterilizers. The steam must penetrate the equipment and reach all areas to ensure complete sterilization. The dry heat sterilizer, on the other hand, requires shorter sterilization times, as the high temperatures penetrate equipment and materials quickly.

The type of materials that can be sterilized also differs between the two sterilizers. Autoclaves are ideal for sterilizing materials that can withstand heat and pressure, such as surgical instruments and medical devices. The dry heat sterilizer is ideal for sterilizing materials that cannot withstand steam sterilization, such as plastic and rubber materials.

Characteristics

Autoclave

Dry Heat Sterilizer

Method

Autoclaving is one of the most common and the oldest methods for sterilization of instruments and materials used mostly in hospitals.

Autoclaving refers to a process of instrument sterilization that uses time, temperature and pressure to kill all forms of microbial life.

Dry heat sterilization is basically sterilizing using an oven that uses time and heat to kill all forms of microbial life, including microbial spores and viruses.

Sterilization Conditions

To ensure sterilization, the pressure chamber or the autoclave is required to increase the saturation steam temperature to minimum of 121 °C or 250 °F with steam pressure at 15-16 pounds per square inch (PSIG) for 15 to 30 minutes. It is important to follow the directions specific to the autoclave with which you’re working.

Dry heat sterilization usually takes about an hour or so at 340 °F or 2 hours at 320 °F. The instruments must be dry before sterilization and the door should not be opened until the entire cycle is completed.

Applications

Sterilization by steam can be used for all items that can accept heat and moisture but steam can penetrate dense materials such as containers, wraps, PVC tubing, etc. Steam can also damage plastic and rubber items. They are also used to decontaminate biological wastes.

Although, dry heat sterilization is relatively slower than autoclaving, it is widely used to sterilize materials that may be damaged by moisture or are impenetrable by steam. They are used to remove pyrogens from glassware, most commonly in the pharmaceutical industry. However, dry heat should never be used on soft rubber goods.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the autoclave and dry heat sterilizer are two common types of sterilizers used in the healthcare industry, food processing, and research laboratories. While both sterilizers aim to eliminate microorganisms, they differ in several ways, including the mechanism of action, time required for sterilization, and the type of materials that can be sterilized.

Healthcare professionals, food processors, and researchers must choose the appropriate sterilizer based on the type of equipment, materials, and microorganisms they want to eliminate.

Updated on: 30-Mar-2023

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