What is the Best Sterilization Technique to Use?

Sterilization is a process intended to annihilate and remove all forms of life present in a certain region. It’s accomplished by use of physical or chemical means. These are the most common methods of sterilization in laboratory. Read on!


TABLE 2 – Outline of the properties of heat decontamination methods.
Conditions Advantages Disadvantages Uses
Dry Heat Thermal inactivation: destroys by oxidation Non-corrosive Simple design and principle Less effective than moist heat; requires longer times and/or higher temperatures Materials that are damaged by, or are impenetrable to, moist heat
Hot Air Oven 160-180 °C for 2-4 hours • Penetrates water-insoluble materials (e.g., grease and oil)
• Less corrosive to metals and sharp instruments than steam
• Slow diffusion, penetration
• Loading, packing critical to performance
• Not suitable for reusable plastics
• Anhydrous materials, such as oils, greases and powders
• Laboratory glassware, instruments
• Closed containers
Red-heat Flame Oxidation to ashes (burning) • Rapid • Initial contact with flame can produce a viable aerosol
• Possibility of accidental fire
• Inoculating loops, needles
Infrared Heated chamber ranging from 480 – 825 °C • Rapid (5-7 seconds)
• Safe
• Works with small items that fit the chamber • Inoculating loops, needles
• Glass tube, pipette mouth
Boiling Maximum temperature obtainable is approximately 100 °C 10-30 mins • Minimal equipment required • Cumbersome: not practical for everyday laboratory use
• Not reliably sporicidal
• Small instruments and equipment
Autoclaving Steam under pressure 121°C /15 psi for 15-90 minutes (gravity displacement autoclave) 132°C /27 psi for 4-20 minutes (pre-vacuum autoclave) • Minimal time required
• Most dependable sterilant for laboratory use
• Loading and packing critical to performance
• Shielding dirt must first be removed
• Maintenance and quality control essential
• Damages heat-sensitive items
• Penetration of sterile glassware, media and instruments
• Decontamination of reusable supplies and equipment
• Decontamination of infectious waste

While many of these personal methods are able to sterilize surfaces, they are frequently used in combination to expand a suitable sterilization protocol. Although sterilization itself does not need downstream validation for use in a manufacturing setting, it is suggested that these processes are closely monitored and quantified wherever feasible to guarantee safe and consistent results that increases personnel safety.

TT-825-S / TT-825-L Infrared Micro-Sterilizer utilizes infrared that produce 825 °C to incinerate organic material deep within the ceramic funnel.

Ideally used to provide complete sterilization of platinum inoculating loops, needles, glass tube or pipette mouth in 5-7 seconds.

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