Cleaning Autoclaves

Question: Our hospital has five autoclaves. There are three flash autoclaves in the OR and there are two steam sterilizers in the SPD area. I've been in SPD for over 10 years.  My new supervisor wants me to clean the autoclaves from the inside. I think this is a somewhat professional procedure and not for SPD techs. Can you help clarify this problem? -- TA, Texas

Answer: If you are talking about a major scale cleaning, then yes, this would require professional expertise. If you are talking about everyday or weekly/monthly cleaning, this does not require the use of the manufacturers’ professional cleaning team (very costly and not meant to be used as a routine cleaning method). An autoclave cleaning schedule should go as follows:

-- Daily: Dusting of the outside, basic cleaning/wiping out of the inside using water and removal of any debris from drains, etc. that would prevent proper operation.

-- Weekly: Clean the drains using a manufacturer-approved descaler or cleaner

-- Monthly: Clean inside/drains of autoclave using a descaler approved by the manufacturer and following all precautions prescribed by such manufacturer to include the MSDS sheets of the approved solutions for your autoclave. Keep in mind that the aforementioned schedule is a recommendation made by most autoclave manufacturers. You must always be sure to follow your autoclave manufacturers recommendations for the routine cleaning of your autoclaves.

Most autoclave manufacturers have a pre-cleaner, descaler solutions, and brushes that can be used on their systems. Check with your autoclave manufacturer for your specific autoclaves.  I work in a hospital where we have 19 autoclaves. It can be a bit time-consuming while you are learning but if you keep up on the cleaning schedule or perhaps assign a person to be responsible for such cleaning (perhaps a weekend or night shift person or rotate this work to all staff so that everyone can do this procedure) maybe a few each day can be done by assigned people. In this way, no single person is burdened and if the regular person is on vacation, the work still happens. You are right to have questions and to investigate any procedure so as to be sure and safe, and that all is well for staff and, most importantly, for patients.

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