8.7.2 General Autoclaving Guidelines

  • Every autoclave and sterilizer should be inspected and serviced on a regular basis. This will help ensure the equipment is functioning properly. 
  • Each unit should have a standard operating procedure written in sufficient detail to ensure that operators will use the equipment properly. 
  • Units should be tested regularly with a commercial preparation of Bacillus stearothermophilus (a biological indicator), in particular, any unit in a BSL3 facility. 
  • Tape indicators (autoclave tape) with heat sensitive, chemical indicators should be used in every autoclave load.  Please note: the indicators only verify that the autoclave has reached normal operating temperatures; they have no time factor.  Therefore, tape indicators can not be used to prove organisms are actually killed during an autoclave run.
  • Keep detailed records on biological tests, recording thermometers, and service work performed on the unit. 
  • Do not autoclave flammable liquids, toxic chemicals, carcinogens, cytotoxic drugs, or radioactive materials. The careless autoclaving of hazardous materials may generate toxic vapors or explosive environments. 
  • Do not autoclave items containing more than trace amounts of solvents and other volatile chemicals or corrosives (e.g., phenol, trichloroacetic acid, ether, chloroform, hypochlorite).
  • Do not autoclave bulk liquids without following the manufacturer's written instructions. See the following section on autoclave containers for more information. 
  • Neutralize waste containing bleach with equal amounts of 1 percent sodium thiosulfate in water prior to autoclaving.
  • High density wastes or materials that insulate the agents from heat and steam penetration are not suitable for steam sterilization. Items that are covered with dirt or film require additional retention times. The importance of properly cleaning items to be sterilized cannot be over emphasized. 
  • Place all autoclaved infectious waste into red bags for disposal.