Autoclave and Steam sterilizers are essentially synonymous and often used interchangeably. “Autoclave” is used more often in laboratories, while “Sterilizer” is more commonly heard in healthcare facilities.
Of all the methods available for sterilization, moist heat in the form of saturated steam under pressure is the most widely used and the most dependable. Steam sterilization is nontoxic, economical, rapidly microbicidal, sporicidal, and rapidly heats and penetrates fabrics. Saturated Steam sterilization is more effective than dry heat or supersaturated steam sterilization as it requires more temperature and time for the destruction of microorganisms
The basic principle of steam sterilization, as accomplished in an autoclave, is to expose each item to direct steam contact at the required temperature and pressure for the specified time. Thus, there are four parameters of steam sterilization: steam, pressure, temperature, and time. Steam sterilizers usually are monitored by measuring temperature, the time at the temperature, and pressure. Moist heat destroys microorganisms by the irreversible coagulation and denaturation of proteins and enzymes. In support of this fact, it has been found that the presence of moisture significantly affects the coagulation of proteins, and the temperature at which microorganisms are destroyed.
Steam sterilization should be used whenever possible on all crucial items that are heat and moisture resistant even when not essential to preventing pathogen transmission.
There are portable steam sterilizing units available for sterilizing different products, surfaces, units, areas, machines, and facilities.