8.7.3 Autoclave Bags/Container Guidelines

The proper packaging and containment of infectious materials are crucial to achieve effective sterilization.  The most frequent reason for sterilization failure is the lack of contact between the steam and microorganisms. 
  • To facilitate steam penetration, bottle caps and stoppers should be loosened after placement into the chamber.  If left sealed, they may not be properly sterilized and could burst violently if exposed to extreme heat. 
  • Most bags that are marketed as autoclavable are not suitable if closed because the steam will not penetrate them.  Steam resistant bags must be left open or have holes punched into the top to allow the steam to penetrate.  Do not transfer open bags to the autoclave. 
  • Never close autoclave bags that have a printed warning stating they are to remain open during sterilization.  If air remains trapped in the bag, the material may not be properly sterilized. 
  • Autoclave bags that allow steam penetration tend to melt or crumble during the sterilization process. Autoclavable bags may be placed inside paper bags, or open steam resistant polypropylene bags. 
  • Autoclavable bags can leak so they should be placed into a shallow stainless steel pan.  Plastic pans are less effective because they do not transfer heat as fast or efficiently. 
  • Sterilization of bulk liquids requires special care to prevent the containers from exploding. 
  1. Each gallon of infectious liquid must be autoclaved for one hour at 250°F at 15 pounds per square inch.  Closures and lids must be loosened prior to sterilizing. 
  2. Bulk solutions must be sterilized separately from all other items in a load dedicated to liquids only.  Solutions are subjected to a cycle designed specifically for liquids. 
  3. Sterilized liquids must be allowed to cool before unloading.  Removing hot bottles may cause them to explode