There are certain industries where cleanliness and sterilization must be a priority; the pharmaceutical industry is one of them. Pharmaceutical workers rely on steam cleaning for fast, efficient sterilization.
Pharmaceutical applications use clean steam, which is created from treated water of either RO or DI quality. They also commonly use autoclaves, or steam cleaners, which are machines that use pressurized steam to kill viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms on the items placed inside the sterilizer chamber. These autoclaves can be as small as a microwave, making it easy to keep them in labs, clinics, and other medical facilities, or even to transport them from room to room or facility to facility. Hospitals and busy labs may use larger models that can sterilize many pieces of equipment at the same time.
What Is an Autoclave and How Does It Work?
In an autoclave, pressurized steam reaches temperatures of 250-273 °F (115–134 °C), which is hot enough to kill mold spores, viruses, and bacteria. The higher the temperature, the less time the items must remain inside the autoclave. For example, at 250 °F, the items would have to remain inside for 15 minutes to ensure sterilization; at a temperature of 273 °F, they would only need to stay for three minutes. Autoclaves are common in pharmaceutical, medical, dental, and laboratory facilities, and they’re used to sterilize tools, equipment, and even waste.
Autoclaves work by removing the air around the items that are to be sterilized, which allows the steam to penetrate the surface of the objects. There are two ways to achieve this with two specific types of autoclaves:
- Gravity Displacement Autoclaves: Steam is heavier than the air in the chamber, so the machine injects the steam—which forces the air out via the drain vent. It’s the simpler of the two types of autoclaves, and it’s common in labs and for use with biowaste. It does, however, take longer to work than a prevacuum autoclave, because it takes time for the air to leave the chamber or some air may get trapped inside; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mention that 10 pounds of microbiological waste would require at least 45 minutes in a gravity displacement autoclave at a temperature of 121°C.
- Pre Vacuum Autoclaves: A vacuum removes the air from the chamber first, then the steam is injected. This allows the steam to go right to work on the objects inside. This is the preferred type of autoclave for use with large, porous objects.
Items in the Pharmaceutical Industry That Can Be Sterilized With Steam
Because steam sterilization is cost-effective, non-toxic, and time-efficient, autoclaves are common in a variety of medical and pharmaceutical facilities. In hospitals, they’re more likely to be called steam sterilizers, while in laboratories they’re more often called autoclaves; however, they are the same thing.
While items made of polyethylene, polyurethane, and polystyrene cannot be steam cleaned, many of the other tools and devices in use in medical facilities can be sterilized in an autoclave. This includes respiratory therapy and anesthesia equipment, dental instruments, sharps containers, and more—basically, anything that is heat and moisture resistant. Microbiological waste can be decontaminated in an autoclave, but it typically requires more time inside.
Sterilizing equipment in an autoclave is fast and efficient, and it doesn’t require a team of people devoted solely to cleaning after everyone else has gone home for the day. Instead, technicians and medical practitioners can sanitize as they go along, ensuring their equipment is always free from potential disease-causing microorganisms.
Clean Steam Units From Electro-Steam for the Pharmaceutical Industry
Our stainless steel line of clean steam generators are just a few of the many generators we offer at Electro-Steam. Available in various sizes, these are ideal for steam sterilization in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals and clinics, surgery centers, labs, veterinary clinics, and pharmaceutical production facilities. Our stand-alone units can pipe easily into any autoclave brand, or you can choose an integral unit that will fit in or under most autoclaves. Either way, you get high-quality steam and efficient sterilization. Our stainless steel clean steam generators are ASME CSD-1 compliant and feature a high-pressure safety reset, dual-pressure controls, and low-level cut-off.
Since 1952, Electro-Steam has been proudly manufacturing steam generators in the United States, and we’re committed to providing our clients around the globe with high-quality solutions. If you can’t find the equipment you’re looking for, our team can create a custom solution designed to meet your needs. Contact us today to learn more about our extensive catalog and our customization capabilities.